Cover image for Abigail takes the wheel
Abigail takes the wheel
Avi, 1937-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollinsPublishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
54 pages : color illustrations ; 23 cm
When the first mate of the freight boat Neptune falls ill, it is up to Abigail, the captain's daughter, to steer the ship up the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York City.
General Note:
"An I can read Chapter book."
Reading Level:
390 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 2.9 0.5 39787.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.5 3 Quiz: 13989 Guided reading level: N.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Collision in the Harbor! Abigail and her brother, Tom, travel to school every day aboard their father's freight boat, the "Neptune." One day, two ships collide in the Narrows, and Abigail's father goes to their aid--leaving Abigail to take the "Neptune's" wheel. Can she and Tom steer the freight boat through the crowded and dangerous waters of New York Harbor alone?

Author Notes

Avi was born in 1937, in the city of New York and raised in Brooklyn. He began his writing career as a playwright, and didn't start writing childrens books until he had kids of his own.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. A young girl takes over the wheel, proves herself a hero, and saves the day in two stories set a century ago. Avi's simple chapter book in the I Can Read series takes place on a boat in the waterways between New Jersey and New York in the 1880s. The first mate gets sick, and schoolgirl Abigail must step into his place and take over steering their small freight boat with a sailing ship in tow up the crowded Hudson River and through the harbor in New York City. The action-packed pictures in line and watercolor are an integral part of the story, and new readers will be caught by the exciting details of Abigail's maneuvers as she handles her task with the help of her younger brother, and narrowly avoids a series of collisions with the steam-driven ships and the sailing ships in the busy thoroughfare. Avi says in an afterword that the story (which he guesses is true) is based on an account published in a children's magazine of the time. Moss' hero, Bee, tells her own story of working on the railroad since she was 16 in 1893, loading freight with her buddies for the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming, always dreaming of being an engineer. She watches the drivers closely, asks lots of questions, badgers them to let her drive--and then one day she gets her chance when the engineer is wounded by bandits, and the station manager allows Bee to drive the train. Since then she has driven trains across the continent, "joining together the two ends of this great nation." Bee's first-person narrative expresses the rhythm and excitement of the railroad, how she loves to hear the clatter and roar of the trains. With extraordinary depth, Payne's brown-tone, full-page paintings combine realism and romance, showing long views of the trains steaming through the prairie, close-ups of the amazing machinery, pictures of Bee and her grinning crew, and then the triumphant scene of Bee proud and strong when at last she climbs into the cab in an engineer's cap. In an afterword, Moss says her story was inspired by a museum show, Women and the American Railroad, and by women's journals of the time. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-3-An easy-reader set in the 1880s. Abigail and Tom have made the 20-mile trip from Old Port, NJ, to New York City on their family's freight boat hundreds of times. Things take a surprising turn, though, when their father takes the helm of a damaged sailing ship they are towing into harbor and Abigail must take charge of the Neptune when the first mate falls ill. She navigates the freighter safely through to its final destination where she is lauded by the crews of both vessels. An author's note states that the tale is based on a story that appeared in St. Nicholas magazine in 1881. The setting is established largely through the illustrations, from the characters' suspenders, aprons, and lace-up boots to the engine being stoked. Muted colors and a predominance of earth tones add to the atmosphere. Although the dialogue and third-person narrative have no particular period flavor, the boat signals and maneuvers are vividly described. The child-saves-the-day story line will appeal to youngsters whose daydreams tend to feature themselves as the heroic protagonists. With minimal characterization, this is a carefully illustrated, plot-driven adventure for transitional readers.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.