Dare The Wind

A lively, true story about a 19th-century woman and the 15,000-mile sailing journey she navigated.

“With animated language full of the vigor of the sea itself, Fern relates the story of Ellen Prentiss Creesy, who, while growing up in Marblehead, Mass., was taught to both sail and navigate by her sea-captain father. Later, Ellen accompanied her husband, also a sea captain, on many voyages as navigator. Ellen’s husband was given command of the Flying Cloud, a clipper ship whose 1851 maiden voyage—from New York City around the tip of Cape Horn to San Francisco—aspired to bring passengers and cargo to the Gold Rush more quickly than had ever been done before. With Ellen as navigator, the Flying Cloud endured storms and doldrums to triumph in its record-setting voyage. McCully’s expertly rendered watercolor illustrations evoke, in double-page spreads, the rich atmosphere of the sea in all its moods, while many events are shown as round vignettes—as though seen through a spyglass. Off-kilter horizon lines conjure up the motion of the ship at sea, and sailing-savvy readers will appreciate the accurate depiction of all things nautical. Endpapers showing the Flying Cloud’s sailing route orient readers to the huge scope of the voyage.As stimulating as sea air itself, this story will surely send the salt water coursing through the veins of its readers.” (author’s note, glossary) 


“McCully’s art ranges in this book.  She captures Ellen both on land and at sea, her body strong against the roll of the waves.  She also paints water with a love for its greens and blues and the depth of color.  The storms are violently dark, the harbors a shining blue, this is water in all of its glory.

I grew up in a house named after the ship Flying Cloud and am so pleased to read a picture book about the ship’s history and learn more about the woman who navigated her.  This is one dynamic and well-told biographical picture book.”

-Tasha for WakingBrainCells.com

“McCully’s (Mirette on the High Wire) signature ink-and-watercolor illustrations bring to vivid life this picture-book biography of sailor Eleanor Prentiss. Dynamic lines and soft hues realistically depict Prentiss’s role as navigator aboard her husband’s clipper ship, the Flying Cloud, in 1851. Its 15,000-mile maiden voyage around Cape Horn was “racing to get passengers and cargo to the Gold Rush.” An anomaly for her time, Prentiss learned the sailing ropes from her ship-captain father. Fern (Barnum’s Bones) lyrically paints a picture of the journey’s ups and downs, during which Prentiss pushes the ship to its limits with her more scientific, risk-taking navigation style: “The masts creaked and groaned…. Soon every twist of rope and thread of canvas was stretched taut. ‘Catch me if you dare!’ Ellen shouted to the wind… the sea sparkling green and white around her.” From storm-tossed gray-green oceans and the white-icy waters around South America’s southern tip to the tilting navigation room belowdecks, the story evokes the daring trip in all its glory, and the many perspectives of the often-majestic scenes bring readers aboard. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)”

-Publishers Weekly

“In the summer of 1851, the clipper Flying Cloud made the journey from New York City to San Francisco in a record-breaking 89 days and 21 hours despite several setbacks and dangers along the way. Much of the credit for that voyage goes to Ellen Prentiss Creesy, the ship’s navigator. Based on the true story of that voyage, this book expertly describes Prentiss’s early life, her love for the sea and the science of navigation, her marriage to Captain Perkins Creesy, and their remarkable accomplishment. Readers will find this fictionalized account gripping and inspiring. McCully’s excellent watercolor illustrations include a number of period details and add a sense of movement and drama to the already exciting text. An author’s note gives the factual background for the story, and a brief glossary serves to familiarize readers with nautical terms. This is a well-executed narrative on a topic that has not received much coverage since Armstrong Sperry’s 1936 Newbery Honor book, All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud (Winston, 1935).”

Misti Tidman, Licking County Library, Newark, OH

“With a lively and dramatic voice, Fern lays out the perils of the voyage-the ship’s mainmast breaks, and Ellen and her crew sail the ship around dangerous waters near the coast of Brazil-and captures the ups and downs of the journey with an almost breathtaking pace. Illustrator Emily Arnold McCully’s watercolors move with ease from placid, peaceful waters to angry, churning seas, and her playful lines give readers a solid sense of the thrill of the journey. In one illustration, we’re below deck with Ellen, shown with an off-kilter perspective, as if we readers are rocking on the waves with her. Ellen’s voyage beat previous records and lasted for three years, according to the informative Author’s Note and tips for further reading that close the book. It was a remarkable achievement, especially during a time when a woman navigating a ship was altogether taboo. This is an excellent biography of a record-breaking American sailor.”

-Book Page