Book Info: Quest

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Age group: 12-17

Jacket illustration: Samuel Yuen Jr.

Genre: Historical Ficction

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Book Club Ideas:


VENUE: A picnic trip to the shore or a nearby lake or river would be a great way to begin a discussion of QUEST. But if the weather is bad or you don’t have a body of water nearby, create your own QUEST at home. Have your book clubbers bring in a shoe box, the top showing a map of their lives, the bottom their sea chest. What things have they discovered about others along the way? What have others discovered about them? What things would they store in their sea trunk if they were to leave for several months?

FOOD: If you are truly adventurous, you could serve frog’s legs, as this is what the crew ate when stranded in the ice (Really, it does taste like chicken!) But as this would take a strong stomach for some, check out what crews really ate while onboard ship: salted fish, salted pork and beef, olives, chickpeas, beans, rice, lentils, olive oil, almonds, cheese and salted sardines and cod in addition to fresh fish caught along the way. So what can you do with this? Why not serve a meal of olives, cheeses, almonds, small bites of fish or meat. And eat it all with your hands at a plank of wood! That’s the way they would have eaten! (Maybe that’s what’s meant by all hands on deck – just kidding!) Hardtack biscuits would be good to be served with the meal, as they were a staple of ship’s kitchens. Because they were so tough, they were dipped in beer or rum but root beer would work just as well! Hardtack biscuits can actually be ordered from the following website:

Or you can try making your own with the following recipe:

Hardtack Recipe

6 parts flour
1 part water

Knead dough until thoroughly mixed. Roll out on a floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick (or thereabouts). Cut into squares–there is an actual size piece of hardtack pictured in Hard Tack & Coffee by Billings – seems to be about 2 3/4 by 3 1/2 inches.

Pierce the hard tack 13 times with the tip of a knife, making sure the holes go all the way through the dough.

Bake at 325ºF for at least an hour, turning over the hard tack once. Check to see that it is cooked through completely. Take out & let cool overnight to get that real hard & dry feeling. Some people bake at 300 for a couple of hours, just to get it real dry. The finished hard tack will still look pale.


SPECIAL GUESTS: There are people who sail in every town across the United States. Why not invite someone who loves sailing to your book club. Have them discuss how they navigate today and compare the new techniques used to what was available to Henry and his crew in 1610. Or is there someone in your community who builds ship replicas? Perhaps they have a model they have completed of an old sailing vessel. Compare it to today’s models and discuss the differences in living conditions aboard modern vessels compared to those of the past.