Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Sailor’s Life for Me!

imagesA Sailor’s Life for Me!
Text by Richard Platt
Illustrated by Stephen Biesty
USS Constitution Museum, 2012
Suitable for: Ages 7-12

Themes/Topics: Nautical history, shipboard life, USS Constitution, War of 1812

Opening/SynopsisAn 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  There is a nice blend of fact and fiction through a mix of authentic historical documents, clips from the interactive website and speech bubbles from ship characters.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.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at or Twitter @catballoumealey
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46 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Sailor’s Life for Me!

  1. They make sextants?! I am shocked! Won’t anyone think of the children?

    Ahem. I’ll see myself out.

  2. Catherine Johnson says:

    I was about to say I’m loving the non-fic selection today, but I’m so distracted by Mike’s comment lol.

  3. Joanna says:

    Love the insights into life aboard and the cool activities included. The interactive website looks super fun.

  4. This book sounds so rich with information in its format. It looks like the iPad game may be free, so I’ll check that out today as we’ll miss storytime due to my coughing.

  5. What a totally cool book, Cathy! It sounds so much fun, and so interesting, and all those resources! I would like to come to Boston and visit the actual ship. I love books that make non-fiction fun. Thanks so much for adding this one to our list!

  6. Great pick! I saw the USS Constitution as a child. Like that someone wrote a book about life on the ship as it will surely gain the interest of children learning about it in school. I reviewed the website and it is packed with activities. I especially loved the video.

  7. Janet Smart says:

    I love non fiction books! This one would make learning fun.

  8. I always forget about the Constitution museum but really need to get over there. I don’t think I’ve been since I was in middle school. This sounds like a a great NF book, Cathy! Have you ever watched when they turn it around?

  9. jama says:

    I’m just here for the dandyfunk. 😀

  10. what’s dandyfunk? Sorry for my ignorance. This is an interesting book. Obviously one I could learn a thing or two from. Off to check out the website. Thanks Cathy.
    Hope you are not coming down with what I have Stacy!

  11. I had never heard of dandyfunk before either Diane! Apparently it was a dessert or treat made by crushing an appalling hard and tasteless ship biscuit, mixing it with lard and molasses, and baking it on a tiny stove or ‘camboose.’ The recipe is included in the book if you’d like to try it!

  12. Perogyo says:

    This looks fantastic. I know nothing about tying knots although I have always been interested. Definitely taking a peek!

  13. I love the cover! This sounds like a cool book that kids can learn a lot from. I’d love to visit the USS Constitution!

  14. Do dogs get to go to sea too?! I’m ready to jump on board! This looks like a great book! I’ll have to check it out!

  15. Growing up in the landlocked state of Iowa, I have no cultural references for ships – other than through literature. Actually, Tennessee is not much better. I’m just on opposite sides of the Mississippi. I appreciate your pointing this out.

    • Diane – I’ve spent very little time in ‘landlocked’ states like Iowa, but there I also find a vastness of sky that is not dissimilar to being near or on the ocean. We are small on this Earth, and appreciating aspects of the physical world around and above us can certain drive that point home!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  16. msyingling says:

    I actually thought about mentioning something to Lee about Captcha– I think I disabled mine but am never sure. They are very hard to read and not necessary if you moderate comments. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  17. Well, I’ve never heard of a dandyfunk, either. But…this was a dandy AND funky(in a good way) review! The book sounds really interesting.

  18. PragmaticMom says:

    Looks great and I think I live near the USS Constitution. It’s in Boston?! What a fun way to learn history!

    • Technically Charlestown, but that’s splitting hairs right? Explore the interactive website for a bit, and I’ll bet your kids will be begging you to hop on the T and visit!

      Thanks for dropping by Mia. Your blog is sensational!

  19. What a wonderful way to introduce history.

  20. I know the perfect kid for this book!

  21. MotherReader says:

    Interesting that the book has a website with such extras. I haven’t seen that much in my travels, other than with series.

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