A swashbuckler set in the West Indies of the early 19th Century, THE WITCH FROM THE SEA is a love story, a coming-of-age adventure and an eccentric comedy of manners about a woman who runs with the pirates to free herself from the conventional "rules" of gender, race and class.

Tory Lightfoot, an orphan of mixed white and Mohawk blood, flees the stifling gentility of 1823 Boston for the freedom of the open sea. But the merchant ship on which she stows away is boarded by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Tory is forced to join the pirate crew to save her life. Making herself useful as both log-keeper and spy, she begins to earn a measure of the independence she craves. But fate, fever and the relentless U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron close in, and Tory must risk her hard-won freedom to save the man she loves.
"I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction."
— The Historical Novel Society Review
"The Witch From The Sea is that rare creation, an historical romance with guts as well as glamour. Wild-spirited Tory is an irresistible character."
— Nautical historian Joan Druett (She-Captains; Hen Frigates)
"I am in love with this book. A+."
Reading Rocks / YA Fiction Review

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The stories my mother told about her ancestors were not recorded in words. They were carved in pictures into the smooth, wear-polished surface of an old basswood cradleboard. I don't remember riding in it on my Mama's back when I was little, but I do remember how it fascinated me, as I was growing up.

It was narrow at the bottom and rounded at the top, with one plain side to keep a baby snug against her mother's back, criss-crossed with colorful beaded straps. But the carved back side, facing out to the world, was alive with the work of a dozen patient hands.

The carved head of an eagle kept watch in the rounded top of the board. Mama said he stood for the power of the spirit world and respect for the unknown. Etched into the narrow base of the board was a simple, cross-hatched partridge feather that Mama said was a symbol of the Mohawk Nation.

Above this were the clan symbols, two delicate little turtles, each with a tiny head, tail, and four feet, radiating out from its round shell in all directions, like little twin suns.

"Your ancestor married a woman from the Turtle Clan," Mama told me. "And every daughter of every daughter all through time will also be of the Turtle Clan. When his wife bore their first child, your ancestor carved this cradleboard for her."

Planted between the two turtles, the sinuous trunk of of the Tree of Life snaked up the back of the board. Little branches jutted out from both sides of the trunk at uneven intervals; each one bore either a seed pod, for a son, or a delicately wrought flower, for a daughter. Each branch had been carved by a different father's hand as the cradleboard was passed down from mothers to daughters through the generations.

Long after I grew too big to ride in it, I loved to study the cradleboard. Mama said it would be mine some day. I loved to touch the tiny, magical carvings, so worn away with time, that had been shaped by so many loving hands.

"Listen to the wood," Mama would tell me, drawing my small fingertips gently over the smooth, intricate carvings. "Your ancestors will sing to you."

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