Mother/Daughter Book Club: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Book Review:

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi takes place in 1832. Thirteen-year-old Charlotte is scheduled to board a ship in England with two other families to meet her family in Rhode Island. However, the other two families mysteriously cancel their trip, leaving Charlotte the sole passenger on a ship with a cruel captain and an uneasy crew. Charlotte finds herself caught between the two and eventually tried for murder. I have always loved this book. Avi’s engaging style takes you on the journey with Charlotte and makes you want to visit the ocean and smell the sea air. My daughter was a little disturbed by a couple parts, but ended up liking the book.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why do you think Charlotte initially trusts Captain Jaggery more than she trusts Zachariah? Have you ever formed — and then changed — your opinion about someone? What caused the change? Share the experience.

2. Life for girls in 1832 was much different from life in the 21st century. What advantages do girls have today? What aspects of today’s world would Charlotte likely appreciate most?

3. Charlotte befriends many of the crewmembers, but still decides to tell Captain Jaggery about the crew’s activities. Why do you think she does this? What would you have done if you were in her position?

4. After Charlotte whips Captain Jaggery’s face, she apologizes. Did her behavior surprise you? If so, in what way? How were her actions in keeping with her character, and how were they not?

5. Zachariah describes Charlotte as “the very soul of justice.” How does this description influence her?

6. Why do you think the captain chooses to make an example out of Zachariah?

7. Why does the crew stop calling Charlotte, “Ms. Doyle”? What does this change signify?

8. Captain Jaggery gives Charlotte three choices: carry out the plan against him, apologize to him, or be hanged. In your opinion, does she make the right choice? What would you have done?

9. How do you think the trip would have been different if the other families had not canceled and had joined Charlotte?

10. Once Charlotte is back on land, she has a hard time fitting in with her family. Why do you think this is? How have her experiences aboard the Seahawk changed her?

(taken from

Food Ideas:

Hard tack (which everyone tried, but no one liked – made us grateful not to be sailors!), sugar cookies decorated to look like the round robin from the book, and some fruit/veggies.


I gave each of the girls a notebook, and they decorated the covers to make their own journals. We learned how to draw ships and how to tie various knots.