When a small kitten named Trim learns that ships allow you to travel across the world, he realizes that’s what he wants to spend his life doing. With the help of the ship’s dog, Penny, Trim manages to get a position on the crew as the ship’s cat.
But life aboard the ship offers its own complications. The parrot, Jack, doesn’t seem to like Trim. Trim can climb up the mast, but it’s harder to climb back down. And there are so many words to describe parts of a ship! Can Trim master life aboard, or will he find himself sinking under the pressure?
The first in the new Adventures of Trim series by Deborah Hopkinson (a longtime BookPage contributor), Trim Sets Sail imagines the life of the most famous ship’s cat in history, who sailed on the HMS Investigator while its captain documented the coastline of Australia in the 1800s. Unlike Hopkinson’s nonfiction deep dives for older kids (Race Against Death, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster), history here acts merely as a backdrop for the fictionalized life of Trim. Hopkinson’s text focuses on the tumultuous emotional life and necessary education that takes place during the first days aboard the ship, while illustrator Kristy Caldwell’s colorful, endearing artwork conveys both the time period and the book’s charming cast of characters.
For kids who are voracious about learning new vocabulary, Trim Sets Sail gives opportunities both to use words they’ve already learned and to master words associated with ships. For instance, Penny points out that the bow of the ship rhymes with bow-wow, while Jack the parrot informs Trim that the starboard side of the ship is its right side. Woven through this delightful education is a sweet story about Trim trying, failing and trying again as he learns that the important thing on a ship is to work with the crew around you.
Trim Sets Sail acts as a perfect introduction to chapter books for kids who love cats, history or oceanic adventures. Pair with Jen Marlin’s Wind Riders series for a one-two punch of daring, big-hearted tales.