by Alice Cushing Gardiner
and Nancy Cabot Osborne
I found this book browsing on the Internet Archive. Picked it up for a light read, was slightly disappointed. It shows its age, but also was written for juvenile audience and has two authors, that might be part of the reason it fell a bit flat for me. Story of a young boy who lives on Nantucket during the heyday of whaling. Most of the narrative is just about his daily life- bored in school, roaming the beaches when he can get away from the strict eye of his mother and grandfather, getting into a bit of mischief with his best friend- searching for buried treasure (which turns out to be a crate of bottled wine). He\’s forbidden to go the wharves but enthralled by sailor\’s stories especially of pirates. Finds a parrot and returns it to a Spainard who lives in a shack near the beach (he\’s afraid of this foreign man until the Spainard offers him food, and thanks them broadly for the return of his parrot). Witnesses the rescue of crew off a shipwreck near shore- and the adults talk of scavenging the goods (I gather this was customary if there were no survivors). There\’s mention of local customs- a bit interesting was the communal sheep-shearing day. He\’s proud to bring down a goose bird when he goes duck-hunting with his grandfather. Uppermost on the boy\’s mind is going away to sea, but he\’s considered too young. He attempts to sneak aboard a ship and stowaway so the captain will be forced to accept him as cabin boy, but his plan doesn\’t work. Sneaks home again and gets in trouble for getting his boots wet (any little chill or soaking and he was sent promptly to bed!) The book closes with a final promise from his parents that next year when he\’s ten, he can sign up to go to sea. It doesn\’t sound like a glamorous occupation, though. One of the men described to the young boys in detail what work it was to cut up a dead whale and process the blubber into oil- it sounds very messy and odorous, not to mention stomach-turning. I was mildly surprised that this frank explanation of the hard work on board ship did not deter the boys at all in their eagerness to go. Especially since it was made clear to them that the first several years with the crew, their job would be to wait table on the captain, assist the mess cook and clean things. What fun.
I think this book is based on true events, because the frontispiece dedication is to those Nantucket people whose memories have made this book. So it has value as a historical piece, but honestly wasn\’t a very fun read. I found myself skimming a lot, hoping the story would get good when the boy snuck aboard ship. It\’s probably very realistic, though.
Rating: 2/5 pages, 1928