Brief Description: Author recounts his 1973 fishing boat cruise up CA coast, relating entertaining tidbits of history and natural history
Geographical Setting: Astoria, California, Lompoc, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, North America, Oceans of the World, Oregon, Pacific Ocean, San Diego, San Miguel Island, San Pedro (CA), United States
Historical Era: 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century
Date Range: 1542-1973
Keywords: Animals, Battle of San Pascual, California Gold Rush, California Missions, Gaspar de Portola, Honda Point Disaster, James Marshall, Jedediah Smith, John Sutter, Juan Cabrillo, Junipero Serra, Kate Sessions, Kit Carson, Lean John Brown, Mexican-American War, Mexican-Anerican War, Natural History, Richard Henry Dana, Sebastian Viscaino, Sir Francis Drake, Starvation Peak
Original Publication: 1973
Suitable for Grades: 4th and up
Target Audience: Middle Grade, Teen, Adult
Beloved children’s author Scott O’Dell recounts his 1973 cruise on the fishing trawler Arctic Star that he undertook with his wife, a friend, and an eccentric but entertaining hired hand. According to O’Dell’s introduction, the cruise up the coast of California and Oregon was the first leg of a journey planned over four summers that continued past Washington state, along the Inside Passage, and on to Alaska. This book covers only that first leg, but I wish that O’Dell had written about the rest of this voyage in such an entertaining and educational style.
The cruise serves as a framework from which the author narrates interesting events in California history and reflects on natural habitat and the health of the present-day coastal water ecosystem. A quick read, it makes a great introduction to any study of California history. The book is currently published by Beautiful Feet Books, a literature-based curriculum provider, for its California history course for 4th through 6th grade.
Some of my favorite historic anecdotes are about Jedediah Smith’s encounter with a bear in 1822. Or Lean John Brown’s 4-day nonstop horseback ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco (at least 400 miles) in order to enlist help during the 1846 Mexican-American war. Or the worst peacetime disaster of the American navy that occurred off the treacherous California coast in 1923. Each of these events and more are narrated in a lively and engaging style. A subplot about the Arctic Star’s hired hand, Rod Lambert, may be more amusing to adults than children. After causing much trouble and wearing his boss’s patience thin, Lambert amusingly gets the comeuppance he deserves.