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“I signed up for corporate green not missiles, world domination, and mass murder,” Bill Wilson. –The Adventures of John Blake: Mysteries of the Ghost Ship      

The Adventures of John Blake: Mysteries of the Ghost Ship

by Philip Pullman
AR Test, Graphic Novel

At A Glance
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Trapped in the mists of time by a terrible research experiment gone wrong, John Blake and his mysterious ship are doomed to sail between the centuries, searching for a way home. In the modern day, John rescues a shipwrecked young girl his own age, Serena, and promises to help her.

But returning Serena to her own time means traveling to the one place where the ship is in most danger of destruction. Plus the all-powerful Dahlberg Corporation has an ambitious leader with plans far greater and more terrible than anyone has realized. The Dahlberb Corporation is hot on their trail, because only John, Serena, and the crew know Dahlberg’s true intentions. And only they have the power to stop him from bending the world to his will.

John Blake is an interesting character who is brave enough to try to stop Dahlberg from controlling the world. However, John and his crewmates are not well developed. The end of the book has a snippet of backstory for each of the crew. However, none of their backstories is discussed in the graphic novel, which makes the characters one-dimensional.

The large cast of characters causes a lot of confusion, and at first, it’s hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. For instance, the introduction of Danielle is confusing. She has been researching the ghost ship Mary Alice, but her interest in the ghost ship isn’t explained until the very end. Plus, it’s unclear why Danielle’s knowledge of the ship is a threat to Dahlberg. Unfortunately, none of the secondary characters are developed enough to understand their motivations or care about their outcomes.

While the publisher recommends Mysteries of the Ghost Ship for readers as young as eight, the graphic novel is not a children’s book. The great lengths Dahlberg takes to rid anyone who he perceives as a threat leads to a lot of violence. Plus, the profanity and dialogue are geared more towards adults than children. Even though the two main characters, John and Serena, are in their teens, younger readers will have a difficult time connecting to them.

Mysteries of the Ghost Ship uses language that makes the book accessible to readers, but some pages are text-heavy and the complicated plot is confusing. The illustrations help propel the story forward, while the spooky nature of the Mary Alice’s illustrations adds a little mystery.

Even though the Mary Alice is a time-traveling ship, the book’s action is almost entirely in the present day. If you want an action-packed graphic novel that is a quick read, Mysteries of the Ghost Ship is a good choice. However, readers who want more developed characters who jump into a particular time period should add Tangled in Time by Kathryn Lasky and the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier to their reading list.

 Sexual Content

  • A crewmember warns Serena about the Barbary Pirates who “take slaves, then make them row, then sell them. Sold to a harem, you know.”


  • Roger knocks out a man. Then Roger puts a chokehold on a man. Another person swings a knife at Roger. Roger steals a briefcase and then leaves. The fight is illustrated over two pages.
  • When Danielle tries to fly out of the country, men approach her and force her into a room. Roger breaks into the room and begins hitting and kicking the other men. Then, Roger points a gun at one of the men’s heads. Then men are tied to a table and their mouths are duck taped shut. The scenes are illustrated over three pages.
  • Roger recognized a man who is “an expert on enhanced interrogation techniques.” Roger considers the man’s techniques to be torture.
  • After falling off a boat, Serena finds her family and runs toward her mother. One of the villain’s lackeys points a gun at her. Serena and her friend Blake run. They go into a restaurant’s kitchen and when the men follow, Blake and Serena throw food in their faces.
  • As Serena and Blake flee, a man with a gun jumps onto the car. Blake rolls down the window and pokes the man in the eye, which causes him to fall off of the car.
  • Blake talks about meeting Kevin. When the two boys part, a man jumps out and stabs Kevin in the heart. Kevin dies.
  • When the ghost ship travels to the present, men in military clothing board the ship and start shooting. Blake is able to “spring” and “slam” the men, knocking them overboard. The fight is illustrated over six pages.
  • During a party, Blake and one of his crewmates sneak onto the villain’s yacht. A man points a gun at them. Roger punches the man in the face, knocking him out.
  • Roger, Blake, and some of Blake’s crewmen try to sneak into a party. Another man points a gun at the group. Blake confronts the villain and the two get into a fight. Once Blake is able to reveal the villain’s crime, he and his crew jump back into the Mary Alice. The fighting is illustrated over nine pages.
  • The villain shoots a missile at the Mary Alice, but the ghost ship disappears and the missile sinks the villain’s yacht. The yacht sinks and other boats come to rescue the passengers.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None


  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes bloody, damn, and hell.
  • “Oh Mother of God” is used several times. For example, when seeing a strange ship, a man says, “Oh Mother of God, protect us.”
  • A father calls his son an idiot and a moron.
  • Oh God and Oh my God are rarely used as exclamations. For example, when a girl falls into the ocean, her mother says, “Oh God!” Later she says, “For God’s sake—the engine! Never mind the damn sails. . .”


  • The ghost ship Mary Alice travels to different times, but the crew cannot control where the ship goes. Blake says, “But I don’t know where we’ll end up. I think Mary Alice does though. . .maybe the wood remembers things we don’t. We seem to end up where we need to be more times than not.”

Spiritual Content

  • When the Mary Alice’s crew hears strange, but beautiful music, one of the crew says, “Jesus Christ. Protect me! Protect me!”
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“I signed up for corporate green not missiles, world domination, and mass murder,” Bill Wilson. –The Adventures of John Blake: Mysteries of the Ghost Ship      

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