Brief Description: History of America at sea, with a special emphasis on the New England whaling industry
Geographical Setting: Asia, Atlantic Ocean, California, China, Europe, Greenland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mediterranean Sea, North America, Oceans of the World, Pacific Ocean, United States
Historical Era: 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 19th Century, 20th Century
Date Range: 1832-1950
Keywords: California Gold Rush, clipper ship, Eskimo, Native Americans, Natural History, ocean liner, scrimshaw, Sea voyage, Ships and Boats, steamship, whales, whaling
Original Publication: 1948
Suitable for Grades: 3-7th
Target Audience: Picture Book, Middle Grade
When 14 y.o. Ezra Brown carves a Seabird out of walrus tusk, it becomes a good luck charm as he journeys aboard a New England whaling ship in the early 1830s. The first third of the book is devoted to whales and the whaling industry as the narrative follows Seabird and Ezra, who grows up to become a sea captain in his own right. The author’s illustrations are full of details, and the marginalia drawings show technical aspects of Ezra’s life at sea.
The rest of the book features Seabird witnessing four generations of Brown family men when Ezra marries and has a son, who in turn grows up to become a sea captain. The son’s scenes depict the shipbuilding industry, with many detailed drawings. The grandson’s interests are even more technical, and he grows up to be an engineer who designs an oil-powered sea vessel. The last generation depicted, Ezra’s great-grandson, is fascinated by 1940s era airplanes, the “ship of the future.”
The book depicts multiple sea voyages from New England through the oceans of the world. As in Holling’s other books, the complex language in this story is best read aloud by adults while the child studies the informative illustrations.