Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
by Jean Lee Latham
251 pages
First Sentence:
Nat lay very still in the dark, trying to stay awake until his big brother, Hab, went to sleep.

Thus begins the story of Mr. Bowditch, the young American who wrote the definitive book of navigation during the time of President Washington. Nathaniel Bowditch was recognized as a math whiz at a very young age but was pulled out of school when he was 12 to serve an indentureship because the family was too poor to feed so many mouths. Along the way he was given some great advice that helped him to continue in his personal studies. He taught himself Latin, then French, then Spanish. He learned the particulars of navigation and then taught it to his crew aboard ship, making note of how he had to explain it so as to be understood by men with little or no education. He knew from experience that education gave men the ability to transcend their family backgrounds and current poverty. It was free but it gave endless benefits. Mr. Bowditch led a hard life but he never let it discourage him from continuing his own self education or helping those around him to improve their lives.

On the back cover of the book is this excerpt:
When Jean Lee Latham was told she couldn't possibly write an interestingbiography about a "human calculating machine,' she set out to do just that. She studied mathematics, astronomy, oceanography and seamanship beginning at the Junior High School level and "working up to Bowditch." ... Carry On, Mr. Bowditch further proves a contention of hers that a mathematician can be human and interesting.

This story was interesting and fun. It was positive and encouraging. I'm sure these were some of the qualities that made it the Newbery Winner in 1956. I very much enjoyed it and recommend it for anyone 10 and older.