This is one of my absolute favorite books! (Yes, I know... I say that a lot.) Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is a Newberry Medal winning book by Jean Lee Latham, and an absolutely true story--the best kind.
Nat Bowditch has dreams of attending Harvard. He loves to learn, and especially loves math. However his dreams are shattered when tragedy strikes. And in poor Nat's story, tragedy strikes a lot. I'm not going to lie--it gets kind of depressing for a while. But then! Then! While indentured to a sailing ship mercantile, an older sailor advises him to "Sail by ash breeze."
When Nat inquires what this means, he learns that when a ship is becalmed and can't move because there is no wind, sailors get out the row boats. They attach ropes from the row boats to the ship and then, with oars made from ash wood, they literally pull the great ship along until the wind picks up again. Get it--"ash breeze"? Meaning of course, that good old fashioned hard work and persistence can get you a long way.
Nat takes this phrase to heart. He works hard and by the time he has finished, he has taught himself several languages, become master of his own ship, and literally changed the future of sailing by his accurate charts and navigation system, which ended up saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives. His contribution to sailing was so monumental, that to this day, every federal ship in the United States of America is required to have his navigation textbook and charts on board.
Such a great book. It teaches kids to never give up, to work hard, not dwell in discouragement, that education is important, heck--even to like math! What more could a parent want?
Family Discussion Guide:
-Is going to school the only way to learn?
-How can we express our love to family and others while they are still living?
-What was the difference between the way Nat managed discouragement, and the way his father did?
-Why are you responsible for your life--no matter what happens?
-What does it mean to act and not react? How did Nat act?
-Why was Nat's excellence at math and his belief in himself important when he challenged the accuracy of existing charts? Why is attention to detail important?
Community Question: When horrible things have happened in your life, how do you keep going? We want some practical tips!
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