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Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

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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 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 guessed that he had the persistence and determination to master sea navigation in the days when men sailed only by “log, lead, and lookout.” Nat’s long hours of study and observation, collected in his famous work, The American Practical Navigator (also known as the “Sailors’ Bible”), stunned the sailing community and made him a New England hero.


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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 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 guessed that he had the persistence and determination to master sea navigation in the days when men sailed only by “log, lead, and lookout.” Nat’s long hours of study and observation, collected in his famous work, The American Practical Navigator (also known as the “Sailors’ Bible”), stunned the sailing community and made him a New England hero.

30 review for Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katie Hanna

    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 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 college!!! Our baby is out here begging for an EDUCATION and you're just gonna TURN HIM DOWN?!?! But you can't keep a man like Nat down for long. He teaches himself everything he needs to know and becomes the biggest expert on navigation on either side of the Atlantic. Not content with that, he makes a point to educate other people, too . . . guys like him who weren't given a chance to go to school. He truly has the heart of a teacher, a mentor; and those scenes where he helps an allegedly "dumb" sailor see that MAYBE I'M NOT SO DUMB AFTER ALL were some of the most powerful in the whole book, for me. I also adored the scenes where Nat (usually so quiet & reserved & soft-spoken) would start yelling his head off about figures and charts in published texts being wrong and I was just like "I feel ya, buddy. I feel ya." I, too, go off on a bender every time I find any kind of error in a recognized textual authority. It's frustrating, guys!!!! *grins* This was a very satisfying book, but, I won't lie to you, it was also a very SAD book. When I was a preteen, the age I think the author originally intended it for, my mom said I couldn't read it because "there are too many funerals and it will make you cry," and good golly, was she ever right. I had a vague memory of that when I started reading it for myself this week; but even so, I had NO IDEA how many people were going to freakin' DIE in this freakin' book. So much death. Let it never be said that I, Katie Hanna, am 'too hard' on my own characters or give them 'too many tragedies' as long as this beast of a story is being blithely handed out to 7th and 8th graders. Like . . . dang. Nat has an incredibly rough life. That's a fact. But he rides out each tragedy and comes out stronger in the end; and that's also a fact. He draws a lot of sustenance from the constancy & consistency of Nature, which I found comforting: it's like, in Nat's mind, the sea is always the sea, no matter who you are or what you've been through. The wind is always the wind. The stars are always the stars. And that is TRUE. In fact, he has a little saying about it which he borrowed from his dead mom, and it made me tear up a bit: "Sometimes, if you look at the stars long enough, they sort of shrink your own troubles down to size."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josiah

    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 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 than Cornelia Meigs's Invincible Louisa ever was so profoundly moving, in my view. I was emotionally invested in Mr. Bowditch's story every step of the way. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is a beautiful book I love very much, and will remember always.

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 *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 irresistibly steady heart. Carry on Mr. Bowditch shows us that life is full of setbacks, hardships and unforeseen detours—and it’s the attitude that matters. It is our own outlook that affects every aspect of our lives, and Nat’s outlook never falters. Victimization, self-pity, fear and depression are all firmly shut up in a box where they belong, where they can have no bearing on Nat’s life as he steps bravely and cheerfully through every valley. Nat is not just a navigator on the seas, he also knew how to navigate life in the best way possible—with self-effacement, courage, and hopeful determination. More than just a brilliant sailor with his ship, Nat knows how to sail through life’s freak storms and doldrums—with Faith, hard-work, and consistency. Sometimes a hard story, often an inspiring one, and, ultimately, a good story to the very last page.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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 (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 book featured many characters. It was sometimes hard to keep them from flowing together in my mind, especially as one after another seemed to die. Sometimes I forgot who was still alive, and the moment a new person became important to Nat, my brothers and I started betting on how and when he or she would die. However, many of the characters were interesting and a few were memorable. This is primarily the story of Nat’s life from the age of six to an important accomplishment which he made, probably in his late thirties. Although historical fiction, it is also semi-biographical, so a lot of the story is true. It was a fairly exciting story, and my brothers really enjoyed it. I, of course, was more interested in Nat’s personal life than his sailing exploits, but that’s just me. However, the end was sudden. I would have liked to know more about Nat’s future. As far as historical accuracy goes, I can only conclude that this book was meticulously researched. I don’t know a lot about Nat Bowditch, but I believe this to be a fairly accurate representation of his life. I was also impressed with the attention to detail on all of Nat’s research and on navigation. We can now determine that Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is a fairly worthwhile read having looked at the characters, plot, and historical accuracy. The characters are many and varied, but sometimes it was hard to remember them all. The plot was quite interesting and even exciting; however, the end was sudden and unsatisfying. The author’s research was plainly thorough, and the historical details added a special layer of realism to the novel. Overall, this is a fairly good book if you want to learn more about Nat Bowditch, but otherwise, it’s not really worth the read. 3.5 stars ~Kellyn Roth, Reveries Reviews

  5. 5 out of 5

    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 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 with I had read it sooner.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    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 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 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara Whitford

    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 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 around the individuals who later placed him in roles where he was able to exponentially develop his knowledge and understanding of mathematics, astronomy, Latin, and various other disciplines. And of course his mastery of those subjects enabled him to change the course of nautical and navigation history. To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Although it takes place in the colonial era–one of my favorite periods of American history–I was a little worried it might be boring or dry. Turns out, the true story of Nat Bowditch was a fascinating one, from the time he bought his first "expectation" from a privateer in his hometown of Salem, to his being apprenticed to a ship chandler as a bookkeeper, to his not only learning to be a sailor, but even writing an entire navigation manual that has been expanded and is still in use by the United States Navy even to this day. I don't recommend this book to everyone; not everyone appreciates history. But for those who do, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    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 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 science.

  9. 5 out of 5

    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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    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 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 his apprenticeship, astronomy,and then while a 2nd mate on ships he studied Spanish, navigation, lunar sightings, discovered thousands of mathematical errors in Moore's navigation book (the standard of the time, a book which led to the demise of uncountable sailors, including his 2 brothers and a bro-in-law and lost ships). All of this while enduring the loss of loved ones at sea and at home. He eventually discovered a new way to sight the moon, even when it could not be seen, using a 3 star sighting around the moon, then he rewrote the navigational manual that is still used today. Wowser!! I would say that today's early education is lacking and the belief that one MUST go to university to get a "higher" education is a fallacy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    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 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 this to the kids and they all loved it. I'm sure that a lot of the science and math went over their heads, but the rest of the story was enough to hold their attention. I plan on having them read it when they're older as well. A valuable addition to any home library and a wonderful man to learn from.

  12. 4 out of 5

    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... https://phot 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... 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. The author is a champion of show don't tell. 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. The 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...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    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 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 quote from the book, "Your Brain is too fast, so you stumble on other people's dumbness like a chair in the dark...And you want to kick something." A girl friend was expressing to Nathaniel what it was like when he got impatient because someone was not learning something as fast as he could. He began to realize that everyone was a person...not a chair, and everyone had feelings just as he did. So he began to rewrite all his journals in order to teach navigational concepts more efficiently to others. When you are talking with someone who may not have the same level of understanding as you do, do you kick them in frustration and keep them in the dark? Or do you reach out the hand of a fellow learner & laborer and help them find the light switch?

  14. 4 out of 5

    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 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 personalization of the historical figures being described and felt like I knew them better for reading it. Definitely something I will continue to have my children read in upper elementary and junior high.

  15. 5 out of 5

    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 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 of maritime history via navigation. This book is fiction but based on the facts of Nathanial's life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    Oh, my. This book is six stars out of five.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gray Cox

    My mom made me read this, so it's going under "school" and I'm not rating it. Nathaniel Bowditch was a fascinating man in some aspects, but alas, sea navigation isn't something I typically want to read about overall.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    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 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 struggle to survive. Nat takes this the hardest. He being a genius and having a passion for book knowledge. He's encouraged by plenty that he is destined for Harvard. But instead he becomes indentured for nine years. When he's free he'll be too old to go back to school. But he is determined--persistent. He will teach himself. Latin. French. Algebra. Trigonometry. Astronomy. Navigation. Surveying. If there is a book he can borrow he will read it, take notes, and absorb the information. Not all of his learning comes from books. There are people in his life whom he cultivates relationships with learning all he can through conversations. When he is free, he becomes a sailor--a clerk or super cargo. The learning continues. He learns about sailing, about guns, and how to get along with all sorts of people. (He also learns Spanish). He begins teaching the crew--anyone and everyone--about navigation, specifically about taking lunars--using the moon, the stars to figure out longitude. After finding hundreds if not thousands of mistakes in a navigation guide--in the tables--he thinks about writing his own book one day. My thoughts: I probably would not have found this one interesting as a child, but the adult me found it engaging. Society is so quick to label children, I wonder what they would have made of Bowditch. He loved math because math is logical and predictable. He wasn't as fond of people finding them impossible to predict and understand. He was amazingly gifted and he learned how to teach others in a way they could understand. Loved the fact that he recognized that education empowers and gives people choices that they never would have had before. He wasn't naturally patient--who is?--but he worked hard at his people skills. I also loved, loved, loved that he learned new languages using the New Testament. The first verse of John is quoted several times! Favorite quotes: We can't have freedom unless we have freedom. And that means freedom to speak our minds (91).

  21. 5 out of 5

    SamZ

    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 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 lives relied on them. The theme of the book is definitely to carry on in spite of struggles or hardships - and Nat faces plenty of them. But the book didn't ever become too preachy or pushy or maudlin. The story continued to flow and held my interest. The only improvement I would make would be a glossary or an appendix with the different parts of a ship labeled - it would be great in helping us "lubbers" understand a bit more of seafaring, especially in the 18th century.

  22. 4 out of 5

    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!

  23. 5 out of 5

    momma.hailey

    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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shiloah

    I'd give this book more stars if I could. I was inspired by Bowditch's hunger for knowledge and his confidence because of it. Such a feel good book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael Cunningham

    Great story! Incredible character!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Great Book Study

    My 9-year old said 4.5 stars b/c too many people died; otherwise she would have given it 5 stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Challice Neipp

    Nathaniel Bowditch is now my new favorite character. He is more of a quiet and strong character but is not, "becalmed!". I love how he used his notebook to write everything down in, and work out everything and through all this self-learning earned the equivalent of a Harvard education. His life wasnt easy, but he had no complaints, only a desire to better the world and make books accurate. Everyone should make the time to read this. Enriching, humbling, inspiring, and educational .

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