Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

In Brief: An unashamed Boy's Own Yarn. An enthusastic youngster turns hero when he discovers a plot to sabotage his father's airship and is must convince the unwilling captain and motley crew of a boat to help. There's a smarmy baddie, a dashing aviatrix, a capable female octogenarian castaway and a young boy dashing to his father's rescue.

Cover of Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves

Author: Carol Hughes

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published in: 1997

Age Range: Pre Teens

Period: Early 20th C

Setting: The Polar Sea

Genres:  AdventureBoys


  • Jack Black is a young lad who must overcome being lost at sea and the unfriendliness of the ship's crew who rescue him in order to rescue his airliner-pilot father whose ship has been sabotaged.
  • Quixote is the captain of the Hyperion which rescues Jack from the open sea. He is driven by revenge against a mechanical warship and its creator.
  • Gadfly is a less-than-virtuous airman whose motto, "Every man must make his own way in the world" comes down to "Put yourself first".


Jack Black discovers a plot to wreck his father's airship but is swept overboard before he can warn anyone. Rescued by a passing ship, he must try to persuade the oddly reluctant captain and his mixed bag crew to help him warn his father, helped by Beryl Faversham the adventurous aviatrix and hindered by Gadfly who has only his own ends in mind.


A surprising throwback: an adventure story set in a determinedly undetermined time and place and peopled with traditional types with no apparent deference to modern sensibilities. It's an era when to be a captain in the airship fleet is to be envied. An era when solo aviators (and aviatrixes) are heroes whom young lads like Jack worship from afar. An era when Russian engineers create mechanised warships which run amok and when the dastardly do everything to plot against the virtuous short of actually twirling moustaches.

The characters engage, and while several are effectively archetypes they have enough to them to make you want to follow their path. It's Jack's story, and he moves from being a na├»ve youngster, longing for a trip on his father's airship and building a newspaper-clipping shrine to daring airmen, to recognising that things are seldom what they seem and that “put yourself first” is not the best motto.

Quixote has made a desperate vow to destroy the machine which was the cause of such sorrow for him, and to have revenge on its creator. To his credit, though, when he meets the creator he sees him for the good man he is, whose invention has run amok, and looks instead at how to destroy the monster the invention has become.

What had happened to the Belle? Had the bomb exploded? Were his father and the crew still alive? Were they stranded on the ice? What about Gadfly? Was he all right? Had the saboteurs stolen the Viper? Had there even been a bomb? Gadfly had said Jack had imagined the voices he'd heard. Perhaps he had.

Tuesday 22nd August 2006