Tea Time with Annie Kate Rotating Header Image

Review: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham


Once again, and probably for the last time, I read Carry On, Mr. Bowditch aloud to my children.  It’s one of my top 50 children’s books for many reasons, not the least of which is the brilliantly-written story.

Little Nat Bowditch is part of a seafaring family that has hit upon hard times, but he does not mind the poverty as long as he can go to school.  However, times get worse and worse and eventually, because there are too many mouths to feed, Nat is apprenticed to a chandlery (a ship supply store) for many long years.  No more school.

Does he despair?  Almost….

Read the book with your children to find out what he does instead.  It’s so incredibly inspiring!  And then follow Nat’s seafaring adventures as he travels the world, learning to be a sailor and visiting exotic ports.  He also discovers the fatal inadequacies of standard navigational tables, and so begins his great contribution to the world.

This thrilling story captivates my children each time I read it.  While I read it to them because it is great children’s literature, it is also an inspiring introduction to one of America’s greatest mathematicians.

Before the age of calculators and computers, Nathaniel Bowditch’s mathematical genius allowed him to correct navigational tables’ errors that had cost many lives.  He went on to write The American Practical Navigator, first published in 1802, eventually bought by the US government, and still, with extensive revisions,  widely used on US naval vessels.  It is available free online.

Every English-speaking child should read this book, and even teens and adults can enjoy it as a fictionalized biography.  It is delightful, exciting, inspiring, and opens new worlds for everyone, young and old.

Note:  Right at the beginning of the book, there is a small episode of children trying to engage in magic to improve their family’s situation.  Also, sensitive younger children may find the book traumatic, because some of Nat’s loved ones die at sea.

Although this is a children’s book, its quality is such that I am including it in my 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and also linking it to Saturday Reviews, Trivium Tuesday, and Read Aloud Thursday.

Disclosure:  We have owned this book for years and I am not compensated for this review.


  1. Nelleke says:

    I totally agree with you about this book. It’s wonderful.
    Now, do you actually have a list of your top 50 children’s books? Because I’d love to see it if you do. 🙂 (No, I am not trying to give you a new project…I have a feeling it would be a big one. But if you have one already…)

  2. Annie Kate says:

    Well, it’s in my head, but it definitely also includes the unabridged Heidi, the entire Little House series, the Little Britches books (but only as a read aloud due to language issues), Swiss Family Robinson, Favorite Poems Old and New, the Swallows and Amazons books, The Escape by A. van der Jagt, The Railway Children, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Little Women, Eight Cousins, Robin Hood, Children of the New Forest, Twenty One Balloons, the first Box Car Children book, Captains Courageous….

    I’ve read these books to ages 5 through adult.

    These are some of the best, just off the top of my head but there are are more suggestions on my read aloud lists: http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/home-2/read-alouds/

    It sounds like a great project, actually! Thanks for the idea.

  3. Jenn says:

    We love this book, too. You are nicer to your younger kids than I am. I read a book out loud once, usually to my oldest, then when it comes back around, I make the younger two read it on their own.

  4. hopeinbrazil says:

    I loved this book even more than my kids did. =)

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Jenn, it’s not that I’m nicer, it’s just that I, like HopeinBrazil, love this book so much that it is a treat to reread it and share it with my kids one last time!

      Yes, Barb, boys really tend to like this book, but my girls love it too.

  5. Amy says:

    I had not heard of this book. Thanks for the recommendation! What age do you this this is suitable for? I’ll look it up on amazon and see if I can find out there =)

  6. Kenda says:

    This is definitely one of my all time favorite books in Sonlight Curriculum!

  7. Laraba says:

    I too LOVE that book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *