Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

by Jean Lee Latham
251 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jenny

An easily-read historical fiction of Nathaniel Bowditch.


As a boy Nat Bowditch dreamed of going to Harvard. He knew he was smart enough; when he was little he begged the teacher to give him longer and longer problems to work, reveling in the precision of mathematics. But the chance to go to Harvard continued to elude him, and when he finally made it out of his indentured servitude under a cooper he went not to Harvard, but to sea. And on the seas with the merchantmen he began rewriting the navigations that would continue to guide captains around the world for years to come.


The characters are not explicitly Christian, but this is concerning an age in which Christian ethics were maintained by nearly all who wished to function in society.

Spiritual Content

As a boy Nat believed that jingling a silver shilling under a new moon would bring good luck.


There are occasional fights and losses of life at sea, but nothing graphic.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is consumed.

Sexual Content

None. Marriage is held in very high esteem.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

One of the characters is known for swearing, though this is merely referenced. Characters say ‘blast!’


While not much for numbers myself, this was one of my favorite stories growing up, and I look forward to reading it to my children some day. The characters are lively representations of both real historical figures and imaginative figures of the day. Written simply and yet delightfully, ‘Carry On, Mr Bowditch’ is a wonderful introduction to the man who charted the courses of sailing ships to safety round the world.

This book has won a John Newberry Medal.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 8-10

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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