Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InCarry On, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham presents the formative years and early adulthood of Nathaniel Bowditch, the man who advanced the science of celestial navigation and who prepared what became the bible of navigation: The Practical Navigator (referred to by sailors simply as “Bowditch”). The biography begins with the young Bowditch living with his family in Danvers, Massachusetts, about to move back to Salem, a port so important during the late eighteenth century that it was thought by some in distant ports to be a country itself. The story depicts the unhappy turn that the family fortunes have taken since the boy’s father, a former sea captain, lost a ship at sea and was forced into another trade. Their misfortunes are aggravated by the difficult economic times that the emerging American nation faces during this revolutionary period. The story then presents the events and people that motivated the intellectual and moral growth of Bowditch.

Latham has a fine sense of the significant detail. By alternating summary with such details, she creates chapters that describe events that both shape and reveal Bowditch’s character. The title of the book itself reflects this approach. “Carry on, Mr. Bowditch,” a frequent order to the young sailor from his first commander, Captain Prince, reflects Prince’s appreciation for the young man’s excessive enthusiasm and independent thinking.

Other details are equally descriptive of character. The young Bowditch learns from his older brother, Hab, that “boys don’t blubber.” This advice and example develop in him a self-composure that enables...

(The entire section is 671 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The novel's principal locale is Salem, Massachusetts, from the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Beginning when...

(The entire section is 86 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Latham writes such natural, lively dialogue that Carry On, Mr. Bowditch reads like a novel, and readers may forget that it has...

(The entire section is 341 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Today's social and business conventions differ greatly from those of the post-American Revolutionary era, and teachers and parents may wish...

(The entire section is 277 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Although Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is fictionalized biography, Latham accurately portrays the events of Nathaniel Bowditch's life. How...

(The entire section is 109 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Research Bowditch's life and compare the factual information with what Latham has written.

2. What else was happening in...

(The entire section is 138 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

People who followed the sea have been the subject of other biographies by Latham. Trail Blazer of the Seas tells the story of Matthew...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Carlson, Julie. "Jean Lee Latham—'A Memorable Person.'" Elementary English 47 (February 1970): 281-284. A discussion of Latham's...

(The entire section is 132 words.)