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!
We can't have freedom unless we have freedom. And that means freedom to speak our minds (91).
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews