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Cleared for Action

by Stephen W. Meader

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Cleared for Action by Stephen W. Meader. Four books originally published from 1940 to 1969 bound together. Reprinted as part of Bethlehem Books "Budget Books" collection. Paperback, $14.95.
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Stephen W. Meader, a Christian (Quaker) author, wrote more than 40 books for children from the 1920s to the 1960s. The four books chosen for this reprint are adventure stories based around ships. The main characters, always teenage boys, possess characteristics including courage, loyalty, patriotism, and tenacity that make them role models to adolescents. Each of the boys faces and overcomes challenges while maintaining a positive attitude and exhibiting resourcefulness. The boys, preferring the beauty of the countryside, shun the typical sailors lives of taverns and waterfront dives. In three of the four books the boys meet girls with whom they plan to marry. All of the books are filled with fascinating details about navigating and sailing ships of a bygone age. Below is an overview of each of the stories and the reaction of our family.

Clear for Action -- Jeff and Amos, first time sailors on small freight ship, are impressed into service on a British frigate during the War of 1812. The boys escape to a deserted island where they must use their wits to survive. The author paints a graphic picture of the harsh life aboard a frigate and describes in detail the efforts and adventures on the island. While it does not take away from the story, there is some inaccurate information about sea turtles that may lead your family to do a bit more research on them. Our entire family thoroughly enjoyed this exciting book and its rich descriptions.

Whaler Round the Horn -- Set in 1850, Rodney Glenn ships out for his first time on a whaling ship going from New Bedford around the horn to the Pacific. After an encounter with a great white whale, Rod ends up shipwrecked on a remote section of one of the Hawaiian islands. The author intended this book to lead teenagers to "a fuller enjoyment of Moby Dick and Typee as they grow older." While the plot bears striking similarities to that of Cleared for Action, our family still liked this story and its interesting information on Hawaii and the perils of a trip around the "horn."

Voyage of the Javelin -- Bob and Matt sign on with a brand new clipper ship, the Javelin, for its maiden voyage in 1854. Sailing from Boston to San Francisco to supply the booming Gold Rush town and then on around the world, the captain and crew compete in races against other clippers to go the fastest and to make the most money on the cargo. The boys take a side trip to pan for gold during shore leave and find plenty of adventure there and on the continuing voyages. This book offers a straightforward plot, but lots of details that will bring the clipper ship era to life. We enjoyed it!

Phantom of the Blockade -- Set in the late Civil War, this story tells of the danger and incredible escapes of the small ships that helped fund the Confederacys efforts by exporting cotton and other Southern products to Bermuda. Devaluation of the Confederate dollar and the desperate situation of the Southern people during the last of the war are clearly portrayed. Yet, the captain and main character, Anse, stand by their principles and persevere as long as possible. We found this book to be an excellent story about an aspect of the Civil War that is often ignored. The story is told with much empathy towards the suffering that war causes.

Recommendation: This collection of books will be an outstanding addition to American history studies and will also offer great starting points for unit studies. The stories move quickly and will interest children of all ages. The rich descriptions and fine role models make Cleared for Action an excellent choice for young readers.

Additional Reading on the Sea

Many of the books below are out of print. Amazon is linked, but please also check Alibris and Abebooks using our links. Thank you! resources related to this review:'s Sea Travel and Maritime History page's History page's Junior ROTC page where you can find more about hands-on learning about ships!

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