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?