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The Wreck of the Zephyr

Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

United States

Children’s, Fantasy novel

Houghton Mifflin

Publication date


Media type
Print (Hardcover)

Preceded by
Ben’s Dream

Followed by
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Wreck of the Zephyr is a children’s book written and illustrated by the American author Chris Van Allsburg, first published by Houghton Mifflin in March 1983.
As he is exploring the sea shore near a small fishing village, the author comes upon the wreck of a small wooden sailboat high on a clifftop. A weather beaten old man is sitting near the wreck, and the author asks him how the boat came to be there, so far from the water. The old man begins to tell the story of a young boy who, years ago, was the most talented sailor in the harbor and who never missed an opportunity to prove it, performing feats that none of the grown men would dare try.
One day the boy decided to go out despite the storm brewing just outside the harbor and against the warnings of an old fisherman. As he sails out of the harbor a big gust strikes the boat and he is knocked unconscious by the boom. When he wakes up he and his boat, the Zephyr, are stranded on a strange beach far above the high-water mark. He starts walking to look for help, and after a long time he crests a hill to see the Zephyr being towed by two boats that are sailing through the air. From the hilltop the boy watches the two strange boats deposit the Zephyr in the harbor.
When he finally gets down to the harbor he is met by a fisherman who is as surprised to see him as the boy was to see his Zephyr fly. The fisherman tells him that they don’t get any visitors because the island is surrounded by a treacherous reef. He offers to take the boy home but the boy refuses, saying he won’t leave until he learns how to sail above the waves. The kind fisherman gives the boy a special set of sails for the Zephyr and spends all day trying to teach him, but the boy just cannot get the hang of it. The fisherman gives up and takes the boy back to his house where his wife has their dinner waiting.
Once the fisherman and his wife are asleep, the boy sneaks back out t