The Secret of Jeanne Baret is a young adult historical novel that tells the fascinating story of a French girl who embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: disguising herself as a boy to take part in a scientific expedition and, hopefully, to become the first female to circumnavigate the globe. The story is well researched. Jeanne (disguised as Jean) travels to many exotic locations, meets people from a fascinating variety of cultures, and as she assists her master with his work, learns that she has a real flair for botany. I think this book could be a wonderful way to show girls how exciting science can be.
I had one minor issue with the story. At the beginning, Jeanne is very happy and thinks that she has achieved exactly what she wanted, so the early chapters didn’t have quite as much tension as I expected. Later, several complications arise: she makes an enemy among the crew, she narrowly escapes having her true identity revealed, and she even starts to fall in love with someone who has no idea she’s a girl. These plot twists help the story really move along. So I’d advise readers not to be fooled by Jeanne’s apparently perfect situation in the beginning. Keep reading. Once the action gets going, it doesn’t let up.