By Author / Illustrator

Nicola Skinner


Friends and family

Age range(s)



HarperCollins Publishers




Paperback / softback




This is the story of Kirsten, an apparently happy and successful 11-year-old YouTube star who meets a ship that comes alive... and is claimed by it as its new captain as it breaks free from its dry dock.

Inspired by the true history of the SS Great Britain, Starboard is about the friendship, heroism and bravery that you can find in others, whether they're made of flesh or iron. It's about taking control of your own life and going on epic adventures. But most of all, it's about finding out who you really dare to be, when you're completely out of your depth...



Starboard follows Kirsten Brambles, a child reality TV star who is apparently happy and successful with everything she could have dreamt for. Except that everything is pretty much a façade and a concoction by the TV company.

On a school trip to the SS Great Britain in Bristol, something very odd indeed occurs. The ship talks to Kirsten and calls her captain. Then, without warning, it breaks free from its moorings and takes Kirsten and her once best friend Olive on a journey to find what is lost.

The SS Great Britain is a real ship, and the history in this story is also real. That is probably why this book is so clever at enabling the reader to entirely suspend disbelief at the ship operating of its own accord and taking on personality by the bucketload. Nicola Skinner has clearly done a great deal of research and woven it into the story so that this is not just Kirsten’s story but also SS Great Britain's. The book takes a historical journey but also a personal one.

The story is also not-so-gently poking fun at reality TV. The fall out for child stars is not something I've read about before in children's literature and this is definitely not a version of how wonderful life is on TV. In fact, it is abundantly clear how unhappy the TV programme is making Kristen and her father as well.

Flavia Sorrentino has illustrated this with wild line drawings and incorporated real photos in the illustrations. They fit perfectly and seem as if the sea is spilling out onto the page as you read.

The most obvious thing about this book is how it is written with love. Nicola Skinner has fallen for the SS Great Britain and that comes across on every page. She even confesses this at the very end of the book in the notes. I think this is why it is such an enjoyable read.

400 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


If you like boats - you'll love this! If you like adventures - you'll love this! If you like a story about finding your true self - you'll love this!

Starboard is a story set around 11-year-old reality TV star, Kirsten. Her show is focused on finding a girlfriend for her dad (not that he's bothered that much - he just wants to please Kirsten). Her whole life is full of 'fake' people and settings and because of this, she struggles with 'real' friendships.

During a school trip to 'the once celebrated SS Great Britain, at one time the world's largest, most glamorous ocean liner', Kirsten is immediately drawn to the ship (and the ship to her!). As she stands alongside it, staring in awe at its immense size, she meets a smartly dressed man; eyebrows, sideburns and tall black hat seem so familiar that Kirsten feels that she has seen him somewhere before. His sudden disappearance leaves only the strong smell of cigars.

As the adventure develops, many quirky characters come alive! Mannequins - such as Mark - and a few past guests and a captain, along with my favourite, Flatty! He is quite grumpy, but very knowledgeable. In what way? You will see as you read more of the book. Not to mention the ship herself!!!!

The story is one of not only adventure but of finding yourself and putting right past wrongs. Perfect for anyone who also likes a little bit of history thrown in!

400 pages / Reviewed by Donna Ritchie, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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