by Carolyn Reeder
Most 12-year-olds today aren't even allowed to bike the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (called the C&O for short) without an adult along. So imagine being 12 years old and piloting a canal boat pulled by mules the 184.5-mile length of the waterway, which used to be a major transportation route.
That's the adventure the heroine embarks upon in our first KidsPost book club book, "Captain Kate," by Carolyn Reeder. In this historical novel, Kate and her new stepbrother, Seth, who is also 12 but has never been on a canal boat, decide to transport their family's cargo of coal from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown during the Civil War. (The canal stops at Cumberland, though originally it was supposed to extend to the Ohio River, which explains the Ohio in its name.)
Operating a canal boat is hard work to begin with, and Kate must deal with a stepbrother who doesn't know what he's doing, rowdy crew members from other boats, the turmoil caused by the war and the dark and scary Paw-Paw Tunnel, which you can still visit. As if that weren't enough, she's not sure she even likes her new stepbrother, who sometimes seems to think that he should be the captain, just because he's one week older, and a boy.
This book is a fun adventure, plus you can learn a lot about life along the canal -- a life you can find out even more about in visits to the C&O Canal National Historical Park.