It all starts on a class field trip to the Dartmouth, one of ships involved in the Boston Tea Party. Joey is a new student, just moved to Boston from New York, and he’s having some trouble fitting in. Of course, his constant flaunting of his Yankee fandom in the Land of the Red Sox has something to do with it. However, he has an adventure with his newest nemesis when they discover that the Dartmouth is haunted and are chased by the ghostly Captain who is still upset about the Boston Tea Party. Shenanigans ensue.
A lot happens in this very short graphic novel. Bullying, making friends, meeting ghosts, venturing into authorized-personnel-only areas, and time traveling are all crammed into 32 pages with odd pacing. With all of this action, the story should have been very streamlined with no side notes, but an entire page is devoted to a random crate in the hull of the ship. We don’t know why or what was in it, but it’s discussed on two half-pages. In contrast, the explanation for the short, random time travel is a text box.
The characters are pretty straightforward and simple. The story is definitely more about the action than about anyone is acting the way they do. Still, I didn’t mind the minimal character development, especially considering how short the book is.
One thing I really liked about this book is that it does bring the Boston Tea Party to life. It can be difficult to make history interesting, but landing in the middle of the action as the Bostonians throw the tea overboard is very exciting. The patriots’ “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude is also very authentic, although it’s hard to tell what is going on with the Captain.
I enjoy the cartoony style of the art with the thick outlines and bright colors. The expressions on the characters’ faces keep things interesting, and Evans has a good sense of when to add detail to the background. The close ups and small panels have a good focus on the characters with some great detail on the larger illustrations. I think kids will enjoy the look of the book.
With the positives of the art and the interesting history, the problems with the uneven pacing and lack of focus on any particular story arc concern me. The story is not as compelling as it could be if it were streamlined. A college professor once told me that the shorter the story, the more focused the plot needs to be with fewer extraneous details. Don’t bring up anything unless it moves the story forward, especially if you only have 32 pages. Hopefully, the rest of the stories in the series find a way to make all 32 pages pop.
Ghostly Graphic Adventures: Dodging Danger on the Dartmouth
by Baron Specter
Art by Dustin Evans
Magic Wagon, 2011