Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

I love it when a book captures a child's imagination and opens up a whole new world to them. I find this usually occurs when the book is very well written and contains characters who have character traits that are to be admired and emulated. It has certainly been the case for D. and for the book, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham

The boys and I needed a new read aloud book for bedtime and TM had said he wanted a book that involved ships and sailing. On a whim, I pulled Mr. Bowditch off the shelves and started it. Truth be told, though I have read good reviews of the book and the book has been on my shelves for years and I've taught the American Revolution period of American history more than once, I've never read it. Boy, was I (and my older children) missing out. It is a great book.

One of Nathaniel Bowditch's chief characteristics is his desire and drive to learn, which he does even when life circumstances would seem to prevent him from doing so. Well, this character and his story have completely captivated D.'s imagination. Just like Mr. Bowditch, D. has begun carrying notebooks around to record things that he has learned. D. has also made one trip to the library already this week to look up books on astronomy because he has decided that "just like Mr. Bowditch" he is going to teach himself astronomy as well. Who is going to argue with that?

Another thing that the book has caused me to realize is how much the world of research has changed in the last 10 years or so. One of the ways Mr. Bowditch taught himself was to read through an encyclopedia which was made available to him. This immediately made both boys ask what an encyclopedia was. Really? And then I thought about it. It has been many years since we've had a set of encyclopedias around. (It was a very old set. So old that if you looked up Switzerland in them, women still did not have the right to vote. I don't think I was wrong to give them away.) At least D. thought that the idea of an encyclopedia was wonderful and wondered where he could find such a thing to look through. He was amazed that they had been at the library all along and he had no idea, though he was a bit disappointed that he couldn't check them out and bring them home.

I actually agree with him. I always loved looking through encyclopedias and do kind of miss having a set around here just for people to browse through. Because it is in the browsing where you find things that you didn't know you were interested in. This is much harder to do with online research. It's also why I much prefer going to the library and searching for books on the shelves myself... because you never know what you are going to come across when you do so.

So I guess I will be keeping my eyes out for a not completely outdated set of affordable encyclopedias to have around the house. That used to be an oxymoron, but I wonder if they have so fallen out of favor that it could be possible. Anyone know?


Anonymous said…
That has to be one of our favorite books. I will confess that I cried more than once reading through it. What an incredible man of learning and perseverance.
Kim Crawford
Shonya said…
I don't know about the encyclopedia question, but this post caught my eye with its title. We have thoroughly enjoyed Carry On, Mr. Bowditch in this homeschool--such a GREAT book encouraging a love for learning!!!
MRK said…
Glad to see this book review as this book has been mentioned as a possible choice for our book discussion club in our homeschool group this year. We just did "Inside Out and Back Again" and are currently reading "21 Balloons."
MamaPPod said…
D is welcome to come over and browse our encyclopedias anytime. I'm not sure how old they are (30 years??), but I would even let him check them out! This does explain him asking me about encyclopedias the other day at the museum, a question which I thought rather random at the time.
One of our favorites!
Lucy said…
I remember a few years back when Encyclopedia Britannica stopped printing hard copies ( I hate to say it, but good luck finding new ones. The old set could have doubled as a history lesson too.

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