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Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  15,660 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews
Readers today are still fascinated by “Nat,” an eighteenth-century nautical wonder and mathematical wizard. Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in a sailor’s world—Salem in the early days, when tall-masted ships from foreign ports crowded the wharves. But Nat didn’t promise to have the makings of a sailor; he was too physically small. Nat may have been slight of build, but no one g ...more
Paperback, 251 pages
Published May 19th 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1955)
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Sherry Kelly This would be perfect for a nine-year-old boy. The chapters are short, but engaging. Except for the necessary technical terms, this book is easy to re…moreThis would be perfect for a nine-year-old boy. The chapters are short, but engaging. Except for the necessary technical terms, this book is easy to read. It's a good opportunity to look up new vocabulary words. We all loved it and learned so much.(less)
Janell Schaak A little bit. But nothing outside of an ordinary young man and young woman realizing that they like each other and enjoy each other’s company. They ev…moreA little bit. But nothing outside of an ordinary young man and young woman realizing that they like each other and enjoy each other’s company. They eventually get married. And this happens twice in the book. But it is handled very well and nothing inappropriate for young readers. (less)

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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  15,660 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews


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Katie  Hanna
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ok so I'm sick with a sore throat, but I wanna try to review this anyway because the thoughts are bouncing around my head and I want to get them out.

In a nutshell: IT WAS PRETTY AWESOME.

Nat Bowditch is my smol science child who just wants to be allowed to Do The Science and Do It Right; and life keeps throwing all these obstacles in his way, but he carries on and does the science anyway, b/c he's fabulous like that. I felt so bad when he had to leave school at age 12 and couldn't even go to co
...more
Josiah
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised when I first learned about this biography that had managed the rare feat (for a nonfiction book) of winning the Newbery Medal, but after reading it, I wholeheartedly support the committee's decision.

The enthralling story of Nat Bowditch bursts at the seams with stark emotion. So often along the path down which the reader is led, the steps are heartbreaking; the ordeals Nat Bowditch endured in his career and personal life were both staggering and inspiring. No biography other tha
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Allison Tebo
*Mini Review*

I was a little worried that I would be lost reading this book. Like the people Nat trips over because they are too slow to understand everything he can, I was worried that I also would trip over Nat’s smarts. However, the author captures Nat’s genius and skills with clarity and simplicity, expertly painting Nat’s intelligence without losing us in the telling. Nat’s brilliant mind is truly incredible to watch, but it wouldn’t have mattered so much if it had not been paired with a irr
...more
Kellyn Roth
(I wrote this for school in the format of a five-paragraph essay.)

Some books start out good, but just fade away towards the end. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham is one of those books. This novel, first published in 1955, is about Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematician, navigator, linguistic specialist, and all-around scholar of the early nineteenth century. By looking at the characters, plot, and historical accuracy, we can determine if Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is a worthwhile read.

This boo
...more
Hanna
I read this book for school, I believe, and I have reread it several times. I always loved Nat, from the small boy to his married years. I thought the sailors with whom he sailed were amusing several times. I loved his thinking, but I didn't agree with his infatuation with math.

There are several things I would like to mention, but they would contain spoilers. So, I'll just end by saying that I didn't like the way everyone seemed to die. This is a very appropriate book for almost all ages, and I
...more
Allison
a classic. <3 ...more
Mary
Carry On Mr. Bowditch has been a huge part of my life since childhood, though I didn't fully appreciate it till I reread it as a teenager. For me, it’s one of those books that is so wonderful and beloved that it’s an impossible task to write a review that captures the book or does it justice. But I’m going to try, and hopefully my review will be adequate and worthy.

When Nat Bowditch is forced to quit school at age 12, he thinks his life and dreams are over. He’ll never be able to make something
...more
Cheryl
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this well enough, and can absolutely imagine child me rereading it with pleasure.

Of course I do wish the 'author's note' as to sources were included, but the interesting Newbery acceptance speech in Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books: 1956-1965 With Acceptance Papers, Biographies & Related Material Chiefly from the Horn Book Magazine does admit to it being a 'fictionized biography' because, despite extensive research, little could be found by Latham about Bowditch.

She does make him out
...more
Sara Whitford
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sara by: Classical Conversations
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch is a remarkable true story of perseverance in the face of adversity, and a testimony to the fact that hard work and diligence pays off. Things didn't go exactly how Nathaniel Bowditch might have planned for himself from the time he was a little boy, but they went exactly the way Providence had designed. Had some of the misfortunes that he endured early in life not happened, he would have most certainly not have been apprenticed as he was, and thus would have not been aroun ...more
Jorgina
This book is the verification that self education is very effective and as viable as any university ed. Nathaniel Bowditch was a indentured servant/apprentice accountant at the age of 12 after his mother and grandmother died. His mathematical ed was so advanced that he needed no training in accounting in the boat supply warehouse. He worked in the chandlery for 9 years.
In that time, he taught himself Latin so he could read Newton's "Principia", French to be an interpreter at the conclusion of
...more
Nathaniel
Aug 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top10childrens
My favorite juvenile fiction work ever, this book tells the inspirational story of a bright young boy who seems to have all his dreams dashed as he grows up. But by "sailing by the ash breeze" and pursuing his intellectual passions whenever he has a spare moment, he becomes one of the most famous marine navigation experts of all time and saves countless lives as a result of his work. No better book can be given to a young person who shows real intellectual potential, especially in math and scien ...more
Valerie Kyriosity
Loved it. I was supposed to be listening while I worked (found a computer-read version online...can't recommend that as the most aesthetically pleasing way to consume), but I didn't get much done because I was too gripped by the story. Listened all the way through in one sitting.
Heather
I was really surprised by this book.

The main character is such a great example of hard work and self-learning. I was amazed at what he was able to accomplish on his own, but searching out and learning what he wanted/needed to. He has a lot of 'bad luck' along the way, but also a lot of people who truly love this humble, industrious man, people who do their best to help him along.

The author did an excellent job developing the characters and moving the action along.

My husband just finished reading
...more
Kristy
Oh, my. This book is six stars out of five.
QNPoohBear
4.75 stars rounded up

Nathaniel Bowditch was from a long line of ship captains but when Nat's father lost his ship, he lost his "tuck." Young Nat has a plan to turn his family fortunes around. He shares this plan with his beloved sister Lizza and then with a new friend who will help Nat make his fortune. When plans go awry, Nat keeps carrying on. His mathematically inclined brain moves at high speed and proves to be the making of him after all.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/UDBVeTga75g...
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Laura
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this book SO MUCH!!!

It was a wonderful read for both parent and child. I admire how self-motivated Nathaniel was. He did not give in to despair or adversity. He survived and then thrived through his self-education. This was an incredibly inspiring book! I am happy to have this classic on my shelves!

I enjoyed all the characters. My favorite part of the book is when Mr. Bowditch begins teaching his fellow shipmates how to do complicated mathematics and navigation.

My favorite quo
...more
JD
So, I'm ashamed to say when I picked up this book that I had no clue that Nathaniel Bowditch was a real person. I had selected the book for history for homeschooling because I'd read rave reviews about it. But I'd assumed that it was simply a historical fiction, much like Johnny Tremain. Now, though, I'm interested in learning more about Mr. Bowditch's life after his first voyage as captain.

The book is well written, in a style that will be easy for children to grasp and learn from. I enjoyed the
...more
Sarah
There is a chapter called "Sailing by Ash Wind" and it sums up the moral of the story for me. The explanation is that when the ship is dead in the water with no wind for the sails to catch, you have to use the oars which were made of ash wood as well as throw your anchor out and pull the boat to it and repeat until you are finally able to regain the wind.

Nathanial Bowditch is an intelligent boy surrounded by hardship yet overcomes by determination and hard work. He perseveres and becomes a part
...more
Abby
Sep 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
simple story and writing style, but i loved it! and he was a REAL guy?! i didn't know that as i was reading. also, this particular cover makes him look hot. i was picturing someone a little less studly.
Faith
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book a couple times before, but it's still one of my favorite books. I love the characters, plot, and everything in it. Also, if any writer wants to know how to use swear words without actually using them, this is a good example to look at.
Jacque
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this aloud to the kids for school. It was part of our Literature curriculum. All of us have it 5 stars except MK. She gave it 3. CN liked that it gave a lot of details and that it was funny. MD liked that it showed Nat’s character traits and what a strong person he was. MK didn’t like it as much as some of the other books we have read in the past.

I felt that this was a very interesting book about a man I knew nothing about. Nathaniel Bowditch did so much for sailing. He was also an amazi
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Gretchen
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fantastic story whose theme is perseverance and making the best of terrible circumstances. It took us a sweet forever to finish this one (first on audio then read aloud) but we are the better for it. The world of sailors and sailing and math and ships and science and education all wrapped into the compelling story of a brilliant little boy, who was handed challenge after challenge and defeat and discouragement but rose above. We'll remember this one for a long time.
Becky
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
First sentence: Nat lay very still in the dark, trying to stay awake until his big brother, Hab, went to sleep.

Premise/plot: Based on history, Latham chronicles the coming of age of Nat Bowditch. The book opens during the Revolutionary war and is set in Salem. His childhood was not easy. With the economy being what it was, with risks high, no matter how hard the family worked, the odds were against their success. One by one the boys had to drop out of school to work with their father in a strugg
...more
SamZ
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newbery
I had the hardest time convincing myself to pick this book up. The time period and the subject just aren't my cup of tea, but I had decided to read the Newberys, so I finally just buckled down and started.
I couldn't put it down!
Nat was a great character, both humble and confident at the same time. His caring for other sailors was amazing, when so many others would have considered the men to be "beneath" him. I also loved Nat's constant demands that charts and math be 100% accurate, because men's
...more
Natalie
Another fun Newberry surprise!

I literally groaned out loud when I read the description on the back of this book. Map maker??? Ugh! I was not looking forward to reading it at all.

Much to my surprise, a couple chapters in and I couldn't put it down! That is true book magic right there folks. I read it in one sitting. Nat is instantly likable. You're rooting for him clear through (even if you don't care about map making!) The setting was beautifully done and you feel right there with Nat. The aut
...more
Lara Lleverino
This book reminded me about how I felt about reading Johnny Tremain as a kid. I loved that book then and I loved this one now. I think it would have been fun to read them back to back. Both books cover similar time periods, are written at similar reading levels and have similar main characters.
I loved the example that the main character sets for self educating. I loved the example he set for the value of hard work and discipline. I also love the women of the story and their quirky insight!
momma.hailey
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a pleasant surprise to finish this page turning adventure biography! I didn't expect to love it as I was previewing it for a potential family read a loud. Not only did I learn much about sailing and navigation, but I found myself immersed in Nat's adventures as if he were my friend.
Karen
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ellie, jacob, mom
Listening to the audio in the car..krb 1/19/16

Wonderful book!! Loved learning all the nautical lingo and the way that Nat taught himself other languages by using the bible..krb 2/8/16 Definitely a book to read/listen to again and again.
Dixie Lee
I love the story of Nat Bowditch. He had nothing but tests and trials during his early life but he turned them into a great wealth of knowledge with he used to build up other people and save countless lives.
Cindy Rollins
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this with my 11 yo student. He wanted me to look up more details about Nathaniel when we finished. I think we both expected a death at the end even though I should have remembered it did not end like that. It was fun to see that Nathaniel went on to have 8 children.
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Born on April 19th, Jean Lee Latham grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia. She attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she wrote plays and operated the county newspaper’s linotype machine. She earned a master’s degree at Cornell University. While completing her degree, Ms. Latham taught English, history, and drama at Ithaca.

Once she graduated, she became editor-in-chief of the Dramatic Publi
...more

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“It's a simple matter of mathematics.” 13 likes
“Behind Nat someone chuckled. Nat turned. Dr. Bentley was looking at him with a twinkle. "Is this a political argument?"
Nat shrugged. "No argument at all. Ben's got an article there that talks against the President. I said I didn't want to hear it. I said that sort of thing ought to be stopped."
To Nat's amazement, Dr. Bentley shook his head. "No, Nat. We can't have freedom—unless we have freedom."
Nat stiffened. "Does that mean right to tell lies?"
Dr. Bentley smiled. "It means the right to have our own opinions. Human problems aren't like mathematics, Nat. Every problem doesn't have just one answer; sometimes you get several answers—and you don't know which is the right one.”
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