Themes/Topics: Nautical history, shipboard life, USS Constitution, War of 1812
Opening/Synopsis: An enjoyable and informative journey into US history, A Sailor’s Life for Me introduces life aboard a naval ship – the USS Constitution – during the war of 1812. Known affectionately as “Old Ironsides” the USS Constitution earned deep respect of Americans for her victories against the largest navy in the world.
The book is divided into sections such as “Meet Your Shipmates” which describes different jobs on the ship and the men needed to do them. “All Hands on Deck” gives an overview of ship activities through the day from tying knots to cooking a meal. Hungry for dandyfunk anyone? Grab a ship biscuit, lard and molasses and meet me by the camboose!
Activities: An incredible array of hands-on activities are featured in the book with clear instructions and helpful diagrams. Our favorites were making a mock sextant, tying knots like the clove hitch and sheet bend, and folding paper boats.
Accompanying the book is an impressive multimedia website through which you can live the life of a virtual shipmate as you scrub the deck, haul on lines, steer the ship, and tell tall tales. Earn points to be promoted (or demoted) from the rank of ‘boy’ to becoming the captain! There are puzzles and printouts galore to supplement the online activities.
Coming to Boston? Plan a visit to the USS Constitution Museum and you can tour the actual ship! First launched in 1797, Old Ironsides is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. There are many special events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
Why I Like This Book: No young reader could resist history when presented in such tasty tidbits! Presented in a simplified graphic novel-style, the illustrations are detailed but not overwhelming. There is a nice blend of fact and fiction through a mix of authentic historical documents, clips from the interactive website and speech bubbles from ship characters. This is a great picture book for slightly older readers with challenging vocabulary and some mature themes.
For more fantastic picture books and resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books.