kids encyclopedia robot

The Wreck of the Zephyr facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
The Wreck of the Zephyr
The Wreck of the Zephyr.jpg
Author Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator Chris Van Allsburg
Cover artist Chris Van Allsburg
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's, fantasy novel
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 31
ISBN 978-1849395434
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.


While exploring the seaside clifftop near a small fishing village, the narrator comes upon the wreck of a small wooden sailboat. A weathered old man is sitting near the wreck, and the narrator 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, never missing 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 the strong waves knock him unconscious. When the boy recovers, he finds himself and the boat (the Zephyr) stranded on a strange beach far above shore. He searches for help and after a long time crests a hill to see the Zephyr being towed by two boats floating through the air. From the hilltop the boy watches the two strange boats deposit the Zephyr in the harbor.

Back in the harbor, he encounters a fisherman who, surprised at the boy's return, tells him that they do not 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 will not leave before learning how to sail above the waves. The fisherman gives the boy a special set of sails for the Zephyr and spends all day trying to teach him, but the boy repeatedly fails to accomplish the task. The fisherman gives up and takes the boy home, where his wife has prepared dinner.

Once the fisherman and his wife are asleep, the boy sneaks out to the Zephyr for another try. This time he succeeds. By the light of the full moon the boy navigates out of the harbor and sets a course for home.

As he nears his village, he aims to ring the high church bell, letting everyone know that he truly is the greatest sailor ever. But just he passes over the steeple, the wind dies, sending the Zephyr plummeting. The boy heads back for the safety of the harbor, but cannot make it and crashes into the cliff, destroying the Zephyr. He badly breaks his leg.

Afterward, the old man claims, the townspeople never believed him, and the boy spent his life doing odd jobs and searching for the mysterious island. The old man ends by commenting that the breeze looks just right for a sail as he limps back down toward the harbor, suggesting the old man is the boy from the story.

Find Fritz

As in all Van Allsburg's stories, Fritz the Dog is hidden in this book. He can be found on page nine, standing near the fisherman as he warns the boy against taking the boat out into the rough storm.

kids search engine
The Wreck of the Zephyr Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.