A Well-Rounded Tween Novel: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Posted: December 2, 2012 in LIBR 264 - Materials for Tweens, Tween Books
Tags: , , , ,
Avi.  (1990).  The true confessions of Charlotte Doyle.  New York, NY: Avon.1991 Newbery Honor1991 ALA Notable Children’s Book1991 Library of Congress 100 Books for ChildrenALA Notable Children’s BookInterest Level: 5-8Reading Level: 5.3Genre: Historical FictionSubjects: Murder, Sea Travel, Action and Adventure, Gender, Liverpool (UK), Rhode Island (USA), Atlantic Ocean

Avi. (1990). The true confessions of Charlotte Doyle. New York, NY: Avon.
1991 Newbery Honor
1991 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Interest Level: 5-8
Reading Level: 5.3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subjects: Murder, Sea Travel, Action and Adventure, Gender, Liverpool (UK), Rhode Island (USA), Atlantic Ocean, Pirates

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a sweet, suspenseful, and action packed adventure story from beginning to end with more than enough surprising twists and outcomes keeping readers eager to know what comes next. Charlotte is a strong female role model that many girls may dream to be like, and the story and main character offers a sense of empowerment and reassurance that anyone can overcome any obstacle they face. Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is truly a delight and an inspiration for all of those that read it, tween girls and boys alike. A book where anything and everything you wouldn’t expect to happen does. Charlotte serves as a symbol of independence and freedom that any tween or young adult can look up to, and learn from her assumptions and mistakes. And, the message that doing what is right isn’t always the easiest of options is important to teach our youth of today and every generation so as to adapt to an ever changing world.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle not only serves as an exciting action-adventure story well suited for tweens but also a historical fiction story that provides ample classroom curriculum options for social studies and language arts. Due to the novel’s historically accurate details of life during a specific time period using actual historical figures, places, and events with fictional ones, this novel provides readers with an understanding of the historical past in a way facts will not suffice. This is similar in idea to many realistic fiction novels that can help educate students with other ethnicity/cultures, such as the novel Esperanza Rising.

Curriculum options for social studies include possible lessons about the historical setting within the book including societal customs, prejudices to those of African descent as a result of slavery and how such discrimination and cruelty lead to the Civil Rights movement and can expand to the topic of bullying, and even gender roles and Women’s Rights. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle also offers ample US Constitutional, Bill of Rights, and Amendments discussions such as criminal proceedings related to the Fifth-Eighth Amendments, the abolition of slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment for civil rights, and the Nineteenth Amendment for women’s rights.

In the language arts curriculum this books offers challenging vocabulary appropriate to the time in which the story is set, and may need further explanation for some readers. Example words include: abominations, adversity, apparition, atonement, audacity, brawny, commerce, congenial, conspiracy, copiously, decorum, docile, gesticulate, impertinence, implacable, mutely, mutiny, perplexity, pinion, prophecy, quell, renounce, reprieve, scrutiny, shrewdly, slanderous, transpire, and vigilant. This novel may also encourage students to journal as was the idea behind how the story in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle was told by the main character, or may be designed as a creative writing project in which students journal the events of their winter or spring break and rewrite it into an autobiographical paper.

How many tweens today would rather do as they want and not as they’re told to do? Though 13-year-old Charlotte Doyle initially displays that doing what is expected of her as what is “right”, she inevitably chooses that social customs commonly distinguished by wealth, gender, and ethnicity are “wrong”, or at least wrong for her. And, in a day and age where vampires, pirates, and zombies are revered as attractive, how would a story with a girl that chooses to sacrifice her social status to become a pirate be anything less than popular? Though Avi’s story is much older than Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a similarity between Charlotte Doyle and Elizabeth Swan to easily entice those of the tween ages to want to read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

  1. lookitzj9 says:

    I am so relieved that you brought up Pirates of the Caribbean because Charlotte reminded me of a young Keira Knightly. I felt that this book was the equivalent of those movies with all the suspense and thrilling action adventures. Books such as this one can easily entice tweens to read and also peak their interests with fighting the social norms. In addition to this, this book can help educate children about the particular time period about how individuals of different races, genders, and social statuses acted upon others, which can help tweens understand the importance of respecting one another regardless of the differences between them. The more children read literature with historical lessons, there is more of a chance that history will not repeat itself and this particular book can do a great part in that.

    • dahiladraft says:

      You are right she does remind me of a young Keira Knightly. I love historical fiction because you can learn about a time period in a much more accessible and fun way. Plus I think it is more fun for tweens this way. I like your idea of using this book as a creative writing project. Writing can be very therapeutic. The cool thing about historical fiction and fiction alike is that it allows you to see the world through a different perspective and this is something I think this book does well.

      • There are plenty of realistic elements as well, but the pirate sea adventure is so much more exiting. This is probably the third time I’ve read Charlotte Doyle and reading second since the release of Pirates of the Caribbean. I think younger readers are more interested in the story since they have some pirate context even if just from Disney.

      • Sasha says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Of course I realize that historical fiction must be taken with a grain of salt and that you can’t take everything as fact (it is historical “fiction,” after all), but there is so much to be said about retaining information better when it’s presented in an entertaining manner. I truly believe that there is much to be learned from historical fiction, and that it is often the gateway to nonfiction reading.

    • I have always love historical fiction. I viewed the books as my own Time Machine. And I would often try to insert myself into one of the character roles. Sort of geeky. And probably no surprise that I’m a huge fan of historical fiction films/TV series. I love how much I start to Google after watching some TV shows.

  2. Sasha says:

    I really like your idea about having tweens journal one of their own experiences and turn it into an autobiographical work. That would be such a fun assignment! They could even take liberties with it. Say they went to Hawaii for Spring Break. They could start out with business as usual, and then all of a sudden a volcano erupts! There’s a world of possibilities. Oh, I just thought of something else, too. It might be fun to have students pick up where Charlotte’s story leaves off and tell the tale of her next sea voyage.

  3. I think that incorporating this book in a classroom curriculum was a fascinating idea. It can definitely fit into a history and language art lessons as this book is part historical fiction. It has many great talking points for book discussion as it deals with many of the topics covered in this class. There are countless of activities on The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle that capture the excitement of the novel. Part of what makes Avi’s novel so interesting is the terminology he interweaved in the text in order to make it so believable and engaging. So incorporating a journal or diary would be a great idea on expanding what readers have learned from reading this great book.

    • It does have a lot of possible uses. I wonder if a new cover was designed if it would interest more tweens to consider it for pleasure reading. I’ve always wondered what happened after the story ended. I love stories that keep me curious… I frequently have sequels in dreams. That’s part of the reason I don’t always like finishing the last chapter of books are the final book in a series because once I do the dreams tend to stop.

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