AGE LEVEL/GRADE LEVEL:
Ages 9 to 12
Grades 3 to 6
The story follows the sleuthing adventures of 12-year-old Rory Dugan, who accompanies his mother and oafish new stepfather on their honeymoon cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. Rory has been depressed for years, ever since the drowning death of his younger brother and his parent's subsequent divorce. But he is fascinated by ships and water and has an encyclopedic knowledge of Titanic history, which is what prompts him to shadow a suspicious passenger on board. The suspect, Mr. Morgan, is an irascible old man who turns out to be the accursed mariner referred to in the book's title, and has a mysterious connection to the Titanic. Morgan, who seems to have a strange power over Rory, is obsessed with the safety of the ship and it leads Rory to believe that their ship may be in grave danger. Rory also meets a girl, Lucy Pritchard, a 13-year-old who befriends him and draws him out with her extroverted, often brash, personality. In his dealings with Lucy and Mr. Morgan, Rory begins to work through his feelings of grief and guilt over his brother's death while they try to solve the mystery of their voyage.
Redemption, survival, friendship, tragedy, family breakups.
NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR:
As well as being a mystery/suspense adventure, the Mariner's Curse is a classic redemption tale involving two characters who must learn to deal with their own troubled pasts in order to move on into the future. Morgan carries real guilt from a sin he committed but Rory's guilt is only perceived. Unfortunately, it makes no difference in Rory's mind and he still must redeem himself in order to move forward with his life.
• The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
• The Legend of the Flying Dutchman
• The sinking of the Titanic
• 20th Atlantic Ocean shipwrecks
• The Ancient Mariner
• The Flying Dutchman
• Sea demon legends and their curses
• This story takes place over a 5 day period while the Sea Lion travels from Southampton to New York. Have the students track the voyage of the Titanic over it's tragic voyage.
• Read about the legend of the Flying Dutchman, the doomed ship of Captain Vanderdecken.
• Discuss the theme of redemption from classic to modern literature.
STUDENT DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
What is the redemption theme of this story?
What is the significance of exchanging glasses between Rory and Morgan at the beginning and end of the book?
Why does Rory have such guilt over the death of his brother Ian?
If Rory is so afraid of water, why is he fascinated, even obsessed, with the Titanic and other ships?
Does Morgan really know what he is doing to the ships he has sailed on? Does he think he is helping them or destroying them?
Did Morgan pick up the curse on the Titanic? If so, who may have had it before him?
Rory doesn't trust anyone, not even his mother. Why?
What does Rory learn from his relationship with Lucy?
Should Rory trust Lucy even though she lied about what they did together?
Rory and Morgan seem tied together in their emotional struggle. What do their histories have in common?
Is there a character you identified with? What aspects or behavior traits made you feel a connection to this character?