Suggested Readings

Suggested Readings

Often young and old alike get "turned on" to a topic, like the ocean, by reading literature that stirs their imagination. There is much yet to be explored about the ocean, so imagination still plays an important role. Below are only some of the great books that have inspired and stirred the curiosity of readers for years. Take the time to get lost in a good book!

Call it Courage, by Armstrong Sperry (New York: Macmillan, 1940):

This is a story of survival and courage. Mafatu, the son of the chief of a small South Pacific island, fears the sea. He is taunted and jeered at by the boys and laughed at by the girls of the tribe. When he was very young, Mafatu and his mother had gone out to fish with others from the village, but a storm arose before Mafatu and his mother could get to shore. The next day his mother's body was found still clutching her young son who had miraculously survived the onslaught of the sea.

Mafatu feared the sea and knew in his heart that Moana, the Sea God, would someday come to claim him. No longer able to face the scorn of his father and the others, he decides he must prove his courage to himself and others. Mafatu takes a small boat and heads out to sea. The currents and tides carry him to a strange new island where he makes some astonishing discoveries and struggles for his very survival.

Carry on Mr. Bowditch, by J.L. Latham (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955):

This is the amazing story of Nat Bowditch who had little opportunity for schooling but mastered the secrets of navigation for himself. Before the age of 30 he had written The American Practical Navigator, which was still used some 150 years later as a standard text in the United States Naval Academy. This is a biography under historical fiction. Nathaniel Bowditch was a real person who did the things the author has credited him with, but the author has taken the liberty of adding dialogue that is similar to what the character would have said.

Jean Lee Latham,the author, studied astronomy, oceanography mathematics and seamanship. She also traveled to Boston and Salem to talk with descendants of Nathaniel Bowditch and to do research on the geographical and maritime backgrounds of her story.

Cod: The Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, by M. Kurlansky (New York: Penguin, 1997):

Why did the Pilgrims starve when the world's most productive fishery was just yards offshore? The fishery had been so lucrative that the area was named Cape Cod in 1603, 17 years before the Pilgrims arrived How did Cod influence world history? Where did the Basques get their Cod? They supplied Cod to southern Europe from before 1000 AD. Why are there no more Cod on the Grand Banks? What happened to the fishery that was thought to be so great that it could never be overfished?

Here is a small book, suitable for high school students, that combines marine and fishery science, history, economics, and interesting recipes in a remarkable book about a remarkable fish.

"Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it [including our own], national diets have been based on it, economies have depended upon it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it."

It is the cod.

Embracing Earth, New Views on Our Changing Planet, by P. Stevens and K. Kelley (San Fransico: Chronicle Books, 1992, ISBN 0-8118-0135-7)

Eyes in the Sky, by D. Baddour (supervising director) and P. Andrew (producer). [Videotape]. (Bethesda, MD: Discovery Channel Video, 1995)

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, by Erik Larson:

This book far exceeds the scope of the weather-disaster genre. Erik Larson, a contributor to Time, recreates the Galveston of that hot September in 1900, a rich seaport with the uniquely 19th century American juxtaposition of coarseness and elegance.

The people in Mr. Larson's Galveston are real, drawn from historical records and animated with an adroit hand. The hurricane is real too, described with a modern understanding of meteorology in nontechnical terms. Still, most readers will remember Isaac's Stormas the human story of those who survived, or who failed to survive, the nation's deadliest natural disaster.

Review written by Hugh E. Willoughby of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960):

This book is based on an event that really occurred. It is the story of Karana, an Indian girl who lived alone on an island off the coast of California for some 18 years. Following an attack by the Aleuts who had come to hunt otter, missionaries come to rescue Karana and her people from their island. Karana notices that her spirited little brother is not on board the ship and jumps off to swim ashore for him. An approaching storm at sea forces the ship to leave without her. Wild dogs on the island kill her brother, leaving 12 year-old Karana isolated on the island. She overcomes taboos of her tribe, the loss of her brother, and many difficulties dealt by the sea.

This is a real story of survival and what makes it even more interesting is that the real Karana was later rescued and brought to California by missionaries. Her people had since dispersed and no one who spoke her language could be found. A missionary who worked with her managed to get the bits and pieces of the story that Scott O'Dell so artfully turned into Island of the Blue Dolphin. The horrible storms that Karana described could have been El Niño's or tsunamis. Read the book and you be the judge.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1964):

Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick depicts a sailor's journey of self-discovery as he travels on a New England whaling vessel in search of the illusive white whale. Surviving storms at sea, a vindictive captain, shark encounters, and all the perils associated with whaling, Ishmael learns the power of God and his sea. The hunt for one whale becomes more than an obsession - it becomes a matter of life and death. (synopsis courtesy of Katrin Adkins)

National Audubon Society Pocket Guide, Earth from Space, by A. Leventer and G. Seltzer. (New York: National Audubon Society, 1995, ISBN 0-679-76057-1)

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway (New York: Scribner):

This is a novel in the purest sense. It would be classified as realistic fiction because it is believable. In other words, something like it could realistically happen.

The old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, has not been successful fishing the Gulf Stream in his little skiff. The men of the village laugh at him. His dream of catching the "big one" seems to be just that--a dream. Thin, gaunt, and heavily wrinkled, the old man has only the young boy who listens and believes. The ordeal of a lifetime awaits Santiago as he sets out to find the big one far out in the Gulf Stream.

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, by Sebastian Junger (Harper Collins Pub., 1998):

If you are looking for high seas adventure, watch the feature film "The Perfect Storm". If you love adventure, but want more, read the book. Sebastion Junger has carefully reconstructed the lives of a group of North Atlantic swordfishermen, their friends, families and rescuers in his best-selling novel.

All the adventure is there, but interspersed--with the thrilling plot of this true tale--is concise, understandable instruction in the science of swordfishing and storms at sea. There is no better way to learn about this business than to read this book. You will come away with an increased respect for those in the fishing industry as well as the Coast Guard who train rigourously and risk their lives to save others. A grand adventure and a thorough read.

Sea of Ice: The Wreck of the Endurance, by Monical Kulling (Random House 1999):

This book written for children tells the story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the ship--Endurance. The scientific expedition to Antarctica became an expedition of survival as the Endurance was lost to the ice. The transcontinental (crossing the South Pole) expedition met with hardship and suffered the loss of many crew members. For a full historical account, read the memoirs of Ernest Shackleton in South.

South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage, by Ernest Shackleton (Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. 1998):

Sir Ernest Shackleton's personal account of a doomed voyage and heroic rescue in the vast ice barrens of the Antarctic.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991):

Jules Verne was a man with an imagination ahead of his time. Just before writing Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea he had completed a voyage to America on the largest ship afloat--The Great Eastern. It was this ship that laid the Atlantic cable which had so excited Verne. He questioned the crewmen about the marine life they had seen, about the currents they encountered, seashells and seaweed they had found.

In his new book he imagined a submarine 50 to 100 times bigger than the frail tin cans of his day. It was a mammoth double-hulled ship of steel powered by an unusual type of electricity. Its crew took its living from the sea like farmers from the land. Some of Verne's ideas of underwater life have become somewhat a reality in modern times. This classic science fiction adventure might surprise some readers when they look at the date when it was written.

On the Spot Ocean, by Reader's Digest Children's Books:

On the Spot Oceans is a collection of the Reader's Digest Children's Books. This 17 page book is great for young readers. It touches on the basics about ocean plants and animals, as well as giving some interesting facts about thedeep blue. At the end, this book gives children a few fun legends and mysteries about mermaids and sea monsters. The glossary on the last page allows kids a quick reference in case they are in need.

The Earth is Mostly Ocean,, by Allen Fowler:

This is a great book for young readers. It gives an introduction to some of the world's oceans, informs children about high and low tides, and talks about what the Mariana Trench is. This book also touches on the jobs of oceanographers and at the end gives a review section where children can quiz themselves on the facts they learned from The World is Mostly Ocean.

Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea, by Gail Gibbons:

Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea gives kids a first hand look at what it would be like to take an adventure in a submersible. This book is for the more advanced readers who can understand the meanings of larger numbers and depths dealing with the ocean. This book goes beyond exploring the surface by teaching kids about the dark zone of the ocean. Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea is a great book for kids looking to learn about the unknowns of the oceans. A neat feature that this book offers is a time line of oceanic events to help kids understand the facts of the ocean.