Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Jean Lee Latham’s Far Voyager: The Story of James Cook provides a biography of a remarkable man as well as a history of British naval exploration of the Pacific Ocean in the eighteenth century. A driving force behind Cook’s voyages was the eighteenth century’s passion for applied science, such as the collection of facts about plants, global geography, and astronomy. The driving forces behind Cook himself were his restless intelligence, his capacity for hard work, his tolerance, and his passionate scientific curiosity. In twenty-four short chapters—none is longer than four or five pages—Latham follows a strict, if abbreviated, chronology of Cook’s life. She begins with young Cook at the age of eight, pushing the limits of his educational opportunities in the Yorkshire villages of his youth. She ends her narrative with his death in the Sandwich Islands (later Hawaii).

Most chapters are half dialogue and half summary narrative. Chapters 1 to 4 deal with Cook’s escape from a Yorkshire farm life by means of his native intelligence. He was apprenticed first to a tradesman, then to a shipowner in the North Sea trade. Chapters 5 to 8 deal with his early life in the British navy. Cook worked his way from apprentice sailor to master surveyor, carried on a courtship by letter, and married Elizabeth Batts. Chapters 9 to 16 recount his first circumnavigation of the globe, the purpose of which was ostensibly to observe the transit of Venus from...

(The entire section is 445 words.)