Monday, November 14, 2011

The Smuggler's Treasure

The Smuggler's Treasure by Sarah Masters Buckey is the first book in the American Girl: History Mysteries series.  When I was a kid, I really adored American Girl, and even now that I'm definitely on the "and up" side of "for ages 10 and up," I still enjoy the books for a fun, light read.  The Smuggler's Treasure is the story of a ship captain's daughter, Elisabet Holder.  It's two years into the War of 1812, and Elisabet's father has been captured by the British.  Her mother has been long dead, and her father's accountant believes her father may be dead now as well, so she makes the long trip by sea from Boston to New Orleans, to stay with an aunt and uncle she's never met - her only living relatives.

Arriving in the strange new city is, for Elisabet, like going to another country - the Louisiana Purchase has only just occurred recently, so the residents are still very much French or Spanish at heart.  On top of this, she finds out that she is expected to work in her aunt and uncle's bakery as a shop assistant; this is very different from living in Boston with her father, where she went to school and had servants to wait on her.  When she learns news of the ship that took her father prisoner, however, and is determined to rescue him from the British, she soon learns the value of friendship despite social class boundaries.

Unlike the protagonists of the other American Girl books that were out already at the time this one was published, I really did not like Elisabet much at all through the entire beginning of The Smuggler's Treasure.  She seems likeable while on the boat, but almost from the moment she sets foot in New Orleans, we see that her privileged upbringing has instilled in her all the snobbery of the upper class that would likely be typical of any wealthy and spoiled only-child of this time period.  Throughout the book, though, Elisabet does change a lot in her attitude towards people of the lower classes; being able to not only recognize that she was mistaken, but also to own up to that and make noticeable changes because of it is admirable, and these changes in Elisabet happen fairly quickly, which is even more amazing.  Maybe because she's young, she's able to backpedal on her attitude more quickly, as she wouldn't be quite so concerned with losing face as an adult would be.

The events in the book are very fast-paced - maybe too fast.  It's a good size for a middle grade novella, but as an adult I would love to see the story more fleshed out.  Everything just seems to unfold much too quickly to be realistic, I think.  Again, though, that's just coming from the perspective of an adult.  I don't remember my exact thoughts as a child reading this, but since I kept the book on my shelves, I think it's safe to say I liked the book just fine.  It's a fun mystery about a young girl in a new and exotic city, and in 1814 there was not only danger of invasion from the British, but also danger of pirates!  The famous Jean Lafitte actually plays rather a significant part in Elisabet's story, as a matter of fact, which makes it all the more exciting and mysterious.


American Girl

Series Info:  What came before this book? What's next?
American Girl:  History Mysteries
* The Smuggler's Treasure (Book 1, by Sarah Masters Buckey)
- Hoofbeats of Danger (Book 2, by Holly Hughes)

See what others are saying about it, or buy it now:
Better World Books

(A note on this series - while the books are numbered, and it's called a series, it's really more a collection of unrelated stories.  You don't need to read them in any particular order if you even read all of them.)


  1. The subject and time period are right up my alley, but I think I would have the same problems you did. I tend to stay away from middle grade fiction for those reasons. Thanks for the honest review.

  2. Wow, that cover is vaguely terrifying, eh? I loved the American Girl series when I was younger. I was actually recently thinking about re-reading some of them. Fun review!