word craft


Escape from Home

Escape from Home

Harper­Collins, 1996
Beyond the West­ern Sea: Book One

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audio book nar­rat­ed by 
Simon Prebble

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What’s this book about?

In 1851, Mau­ra and Patrick O’Con­nell, dri­ven from their Irish home by a cru­el Eng­lish land­lord, join the land­lord’s younger son, Lau­rence Kirkle, flee­ing an abu­sive fam­i­ly sit­u­a­tion, on a jour­ney that takes them to the port of Liv­er­pool on the first step of their quest to reach America.

Story Behind the Story

I had been vis­it­ing schools that year, impor­tant­ly, long before the lengthy Har­ry Pot­ter books were so pop­u­lar. I had begun ask­ing stu­dents what they were read­ing. A sur­pris­ing num­ber of them were telling me they were read­ing nov­els by Stephen King. The sur­prise— (to me and to their teachers)—was that these kids were read­ing tru­ly long books. More­over, they were read­ing them very much on their own. The les­son? If they liked the sto­ries, kids would read long books.

Hav­ing already pub­lished books that had become popular—for instance, The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle—I had become used to the ques­tion, “Are you going to do a sequel?” Oth­er books of mine had elicit­ed that same question.

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Awards and Recognition

  • Best Books for Young Adults, ALA, 1997
  • Best Books of the Year, Book­links, 1996
  • Best Books of the Year, Book­list, 1996
  • Book­list, 1996, starred review
  • Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books, 1997, Blue Ribbon
  • Nation­al Coun­cil Social Studies/Children’s Book Coun­cil, 1997, Notable
  • New York Pub­lic Library, Best Books of the Year, 1996
  • Chil­dren’s choice nom­i­nee, Vermont


“[A] … puls­ing 1850s emi­grant adven­ture… . packed with action and with a huge cast of vil­lains and heroes… . Great for read­ing aloud, the vivid scenes and larg­er-than-life char­ac­ters also lend them­selves to read­ers’ the­ater. The com­e­dy is both grotesque and sin­is­ter. As in Dick­ens’ works, coin­ci­dence is not just a plot sur­prise but a rev­e­la­tion that those who appear to be far apart—the pow­er­ful and the ‘failures’—are, in fact, inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed.” (Book­list)

buy the book 
Don’t miss the sequel!
if you liked this book, try: