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Friday, December 21, 2012

Viva Jacquelina! Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away by L.A. Meyer

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Terrance McArthur

2002’s Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, by L. A. Meyer, exploded like a man-o’-war’s broadside into the teen book market. Mary Faber was an orphan in 1803 London, but she cut her hair, dressed in pants, called herself Jacky, and was taken on as a ship’s boy on a British warship. Since then, she has fought pirates, been a pirate, spied on Napoleon, gone down the Mississippi, sailed the Far East, been shipped to Australia on trumped-up charges, gone to a Boston school for young ladies, and managed to keep her virtue, despite being lusted after by countless men and being in various compromising situations, because she is faithful to Jamie, her true and first love…although she doesn’t pass up an opportunity for an “innocent” kiss and caress with a handsome acquaintance.

Now, we come to the tenth book, Viva Jacquelina! Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away. It’s 1808, and the Napoleonic Wars have brought Jacky to Portugal and Spain, translating for General Arthur Wellesley, working with Spanish freedom fighters, a servant & student (& model) in the studio of the Spanish painter Goya, singing and dancing in taverns, running with the bulls, tormented in the pits of the Spanish Inquisition (and there is a pendulum), and joining a gypsy caravan. Meanwhile, Jamie is half a world away, being taught martial arts and Zen philosophy.

Image source: Harcourt Children's

As the series has wound its way through history and geography, Jacky has acquired a large entourage of friends, associates, and hangers-on. This installment strips them all away from her, forcing Jacky to rely on her own talents (which seem to expand with each day—she takes up flamenco guitar and dance, this time) and her new sets of friends.

I enjoy the series, and recommend starting at the beginning with Bloody Jack. Girls like the female hero, but boys enjoy the swashbuckling action. One of the interesting effects of introducing these books to teens and adults is that people start researching and looking for information on some of the events and historical (and legendary) characters that seem to cross her path with humorous frequency. For instance, General Wellesley turns out to be also known as the Duke of Wellington.

Viva Jacquelina! gets silly, gets exciting, gets dangerous. Get it!

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.

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