We Recommend: Sea Adventure for Nice People

Oh dear, yet another episode of We Recommend, in which we attempt, by hook or by crook, to find the absolutely perfect book for people who write in. Got a kid in your life who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good options are in the comments, so be sure to look there!

OK, normally I don't do two We Recommends in a row. I like to mix things up a bit, and sometimes I even have something on my mind that I want to get out there, but this one is different: this time I got an email in my Diamond in the Window in-box. It was from Chestnut. That's right, my collaborator. And don't believe the sidebar over there, she's actually 10 now. The email was short:

I am looking for a non-fiction book about sea adventure.Can you recommend a book for me?

When your very own kid emails you, there's nothing you can do but respond, and right away, too.

The trouble is, of course, I don't know all that much about about nonfiction. I mean, I like sea adventure as much as the next person, but I fear I am not up on this. She's already read Paddle to the Sea, and I don't know that it would even qualify.

But there is one book I saw once, long ago, before I had reading children, that struck me as unbelievably compelling. But I was a grownup and couldn't buy it. It might do the trick:

I know it's not really a narrative book for a 10-year-old to read, but it looks so cool!

But please, all of you who actually might know something about this: do you have any books to recommend for my girl?

15 thoughts on “We Recommend: Sea Adventure for Nice People

  1. Oh! If I could be sure I knew how to do it correctly I’d link… but please take a look at Dove by Robin L. Graham. Probably not exactly what she means by sea adventure, but a real-life sea adventure it is!


  2. When I was about Chestnut’s age, I was obsessed with a library book called “Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels”. Halliburton was a sort of Indiana Jones figure who traveled the globe during the early years of the 20th century until he disappeared in the late ’30’s while sailing his Chinese junk “The Sea Dragon” around the world. Come to think of it, he may have been the inspiration for the Charles Muntz character in “Up”. He climbed to the top of the Golden Gate bridge while it was under construction, rode elephants across the Alps like Hannibal, followed the route Ulysses took along the Mediterranean, you name it. And then he wrote about it, in books with titles like “The Royal Road to Romance” or “The Glorious Adventure” for everyone but “Marvels” is specifically for young people. I still have dreams about the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul or the Blue Grotto in Capri due to that book.
    The Book of Marvels is out of print (I recently got one from my husband for my birthday) but I think that some of his earlier books have recently been reissued. And you never know, libraries may still carry it. I don’t at all know if this is at all what Chestnut is looking for but just remembering Halliburton makes me want to go up to my room and reread the sections about Machu Picchu or the Taj Mahal.


  3. While it’s not a children’s book per se, I really, really loved Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki when I was a kid. Sailing across the Pacific Ocean in a Polynesian boat; what could be more adventurous?


  4. Shackelton’s adventures–there are several books about his voyage–she can find the right one for her. And the story ends happily–all of the men are saved.
    Maybe “Endurance” is the name of one of the books.


  5. Endurance is definitely the name of one of the Shackleton books — it it theoretically written for adults, but Chestnut would be able to read it easily, I think (I teach it in my early college courses — it’s pretty accessible).
    Anything about the Titanic might fit the bill, too. A Night to Remember is good, of course, but there are kazillions of Titanic books out there for all ages.


  6. Are you SURE she won’t consider fiction? If so, Arthur Ransome’s books are great adventures. We used to read the first chapters of Swallows and Amazons aloud- until they get to the island- because it moves a bit slow. There is also the beloved, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea.


  7. this might be too advanced for her, but–
    Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong, about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed expedition to Antarctica.
    Amazon indicates it’s for grades 6 and up. I loved it.


  8. Marooned: The Strange but true Adventures of Alexander Selkirk the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske which is written for children. There are daring sea exploits in addition to the part where he is stranded on an island.


  9. First off, Jane Yolen’s “Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World” would be a good pointer to other sources. “Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter’s Companion” is a visual treat. “Two Years Before the Mast” is wonderful, too, a narrative of a young lawyer (I think) who went to sea for his health.


  10. Jane Yolan also wrote “The Mary Celeste: An Unsolved Mystery from History” about a crew that goes missing and is never found. My fifth grade students are fascinated by all the extra “notes” stuck throughout the book.


  11. The Log from the Sea of Cortez – by John Steinbeck. It’s a travel diary of a specimen collecting trip in Baja California with Ed Ricketts (Doc from Cannary Row). Contains the most hysterical pee-your-pants funny description of an uncooperative outboard motor (of course appreciation of this may require actual experience with an outboard motor…). I don’t recall any salacious passages although I do think abundant alcoholic beverages were on board, also known to be useful for preserving specimen. There are a lot of interesting tidbits of marine biology and a precursor to his book “The Pearl”. The original edition even contains photographs of the species they logged.


  12. I’m really not sure about age-appropriateness for any of these, but given that caveat: I’ve flipped through my mother’s copy of his “In the South Seas” essays and it looked quite good; he loved the place. (Bonus: available on Project Gutenberg! Though, possible downside: there may be some cultural unpacking to do.) Another possibility: Tony Horwitz’s Blue Latitudes (http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Latitudes-Boldly-Captain-Before/dp/0312422601/). And I also thought of Kon-Tiki, although my father had an audio recording of the book and it was one of my least favorite, considered most-boring things as a child; so I think you would have to look for a better version than the droning one we had!


  13. Oops, I edited my comment and left out the author of “In the South Seas”–Robert Louis Stevenson. These are some of his nonfiction essays.


  14. Try “Sailing Alone Around The World” by Joshua Slocum, the first person to, you guessed it, sail alone around the world. I found it fascinating, loved the descriptions of the water, the builiding of the boat, the adventures, the reliance on himself. Good for kids, no language issues and he comes back alive. I come back to this book often when I feel the need for an adventure!


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