Friday, April 23, 2010

Readers' Challenge: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham is a gripping historical fiction account of the life of Nathanial Bowditch, and his writing of The American Practical Navigator.

This Newberry Medal winning book is one that we are reading through the Sonlight Curriculum as a "read aloud" book for my 3rd grader's American History and Literature curriculum.

I would recommend this book to anyone who can read at a 5th grade level and up, to get a good feel for life in the United States the first few decades after the Revolution, and for anyone interested in sea voyages, navigation, and self education.

The part that amazes me most about Nathanial Bowditch's life isn't his mathmatical genius or his ability to re-write the rules of Navigation to make sailing safer, but his ability to educate himself despite all the odds stacked against him. He is from a poor family. He is indentured for nine years and can't go to school, but he keeps notebooks of everything that he learns, ask questions, teaches himself mathmatics, Latin, French and Spanish, along with navigation.

This fictionalized account brings Nat Bowditch to life, and one of the analogies in the story about sailing in life that is carried successfully throughout the novel is about "sailing by an ash breeze," which I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago.

To sail by an ash breeze meant to pull out oars and make the boat go where you wanted it to go when there wasn't any wind. To sail by an ash breeze in life means to work hard at getting where you want to go, even when everything in life seems to be trying to keep you at a standstill.

As a writer, there are many days in which the wind of my ideas has stilled, and I have to pull out my oars and just keep typing.

Good Sailing, everyone!

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