Children's Books discussion

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
This topic is about Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
28 views
Newbery Archive > The Medal winner from 1956 - Carry On, Mr. Bowditch - D&A July 2018

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 2: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (last edited Sep 06, 2018 10:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
In her acceptance speech, Jean admitted to writing specifically for "the adolescent boy" but also defended the book as respectful of the best of their natures, not pandering to them. Apparently some adults thought it too good for children....

She also said that although readers always want to know "what happened," "my reader is not primarily interested in plot. He is interested in what happens because he is interested in the character it happens to. No incident has any place in the story unless it has an emotional impact on the character--and on the reader."


Michael Fitzgerald | 313 comments A wonderful and inspiring book. Well-written and engaging, this presents an historical figure in a way that can connect with young readers. There is plenty of history, plenty of seafaring, a lot of education, and even some romance.

I listened to some of the audio version by Jim Weiss. I disliked the sneering tone that he had - not sure if this is his natural voice or if it was a conscious decision made for narrating this book. If the latter, it was not a good choice.


message 4: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
Thank you. I'll avoid the audio, then.


message 5: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
I enjoyed this well enough.

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 to be larger-than-life, but then that was the fashion for these inspirational boys' books of the 1940s and '50s, apparently, as evidenced by other Newbery winners. She also humanizes him a bit, and there are bits of both insight and humor mixed in with the glorious adventure, so it's a readable book.

It does reflect the casual racism of the time against, for example, Malays... but when we get to know individuals like Lupe, we learn to respect them.

Overall I could see using this in a classroom, if only because the man is less well-known than most heroes known to schoolchildren.


message 6: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 1441 comments Mod
I didn't join the discussion since I read this book in the 1970s, and so I don't remember anything about it. And I didn't have any memory of loving it so much that I would want to reread it. I gave it 3 stars, so I probably liked it OK, but not enough to tackle it again.


Steve Shilstone | 173 comments Thought it was okay. Gave it three stars. An awful lot of dialogue. Nothing extraordinary. Workmanlike.


QNPoohBear | 361 comments I remember seeing this book on the library shelves in elementary school and passing it over because it was about a boy. ew! I had the pleasure of visiting Salem last summer and learned a bit of the background behind this story. Now I want to go back to visit the maritime history part of the town.


https://photos.app.goo.gl/UDBVeTga75g...
https://photos.app.goo.gl/ieYZKVgrPzB...

This book is incredible! The story is rich in historical detail. The author learned so much just to write this book. The story is full of action and I simply couldn't put it down. I can't believe she crammed all that fact into one novel without resorting to reciting basic facts. There is a tiny bit of casual racism "swarthy" Spaniard, "brown" men but Nathaniel himself judges men on their abilities and not who they are. There's also a great section on the freedom of the press after the Revolutionary War leading up to the War of 1812.

Nathaniel's life was full of tragedy and setbacks yet he never ever gave up. He taught himself Latin, figured out the principles of navigation AND discovered errors in the leading textbook of the day. He taught common men navigation that was considered beyond their scope of understanding, rewrote the book and undertook several sea voyages around the world. If the novel is to be believed, he was also kind, compassionate and loving. I really connected to Nat because I have a quick brain too and feel like kicking a chair when someone can't keep up but unlike Nat I can't understand math. I can't even imagine beginning to understand 1/10th of what Nathaniel Bowditch understood! I especially liked his gentle sister Lizza, sweet Liza and laughing Polly. The women in this story are very strong despite the lack of opportunities for girls in those days.

I really liked the illustrations despite them being black and white line drawings. I could easily picture 18th century Salem since I was just there a year ago. I walked the same streets Nathaniel did and learned about the history of Salem. Unfortunately many of the maritime museum exhibits were closed so I must return to learn more about the background of this story. For those readers who have not been to Salem, the illustrations perfectly capture the spirit of the town before the kitschy witchy craze took over in the late 19th-century.

More background on the Derby family
https://photos.app.goo.gl/phxEjoAaCk1...
https://photos.app.goo.gl/PmHDo9DCGap...

Pepper trade
https://photos.app.goo.gl/fLTfdEjkxGk...
https://photos.app.goo.gl/CZzCLK3Fq1N...

What is a Kris? (knife briefly mentioned in the story)
https://photos.app.goo.gl/P7dKvb3gEaG...

fuzzy map of Salem harbor
https://photos.app.goo.gl/HoCDs6HsRKS...

Salem ships
https://photos.app.goo.gl/QeR45dPsrhZ...


message 9: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
Thank you for sharing all that research! As you say, the book itself is so rich with information... but more enhancements are bonus!

Yes, that bit about freedom of the press is especially interesting & informative.


message 10: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (last edited Aug 01, 2018 06:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
Except... the links seem broken. I keep getting 404 errors when I click on them.


message 11: by Phil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phil Jensen | 107 comments I read this a few years ago and loved it. I read it with a few of my less robust 7th graders. They hated it and didn't finish the book. I think I underestimated the amount of imagination it requires to read historical fiction. They just couldn't get the setting and how it drove the action.


message 12: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
I can imagine how that would be tough.


Steve Shilstone | 173 comments Phil wrote: "I read this a few years ago and loved it. I read it with a few of my less robust 7th graders. They hated it and didn't finish the book. I think I underestimated the amount of imagination it require..."

I guess my mentality is 'less than robust seventh grader' even though I am 74, because I am with them all the way. There is a good story there. For me, it wasn't well told.


Michael Fitzgerald | 313 comments I'm pretty sure I didn't read it as a child, but it's entirely possible I wouldn't have loved it as much as I do now. Historical fiction was something that I was much more likely to encounter as part of a school assignment. While there's nothing in the writing that is necessarily out of the grasp of a middle school kid, a high schooler (or older) could have accumulated more wisdom (just by living) and thereby connect with the relevant portions of Nat's experience better.


QNPoohBear | 361 comments Testing post for links. Will delete later.

The Derby family

Elias Haskett Derby America's first millionaire. The Grand Turk ship is the symbol of Old Spice.

Nathaniel Bowditch part 1

Nathaniel Bowditch Part 2 Regretfully I didn't get the images on the banner.

Black Pepper

The pepper trade

What is a kriss?

Blurry map of Salem

ships in harbor


message 17: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 4365 comments Steve wrote: "Phil wrote: "I read this a few years ago and loved it. I read it with a few of my less robust 7th graders. They hated it and didn't finish the book. I think I underestimated the amount of imaginati..."

I have not had a chance to read this, but a story that is not well told stylistically can easily ruin good content for me, even though how one feels a story is told is also often something that is very much personal.


message 18: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 4358 comments Mod
Very much personal indeed. I was surprised by how engaged I was. I didn't imagine that I'd have any interest in HF for boys, but I enjoyed it.


QNPoohBear | 361 comments Cheryl wrote: "Very much personal indeed. I was surprised by how engaged I was. I didn't imagine that I'd have any interest in HF for boys, but I enjoyed it."

Same here plus having a connection to Salem helped engage me in the story.


back to top