Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Review: Cruise of the Arctic Star


I read this book aloud to my children, ages 9 and 6. In the novel, the author, Scott O'Dell (author of Island of the Blue Dolphins and other works) travels up the coast of California in his own boat, with his wife as navigator, and a friend and one hired person as crew. Each chapter talks a little bit about the author's boat travels (including lots of boating/ship terms and references) alternating with O'Dell's musings about the history, geography or flora/fauna of the California coast. For example, as he leaves the San Diego port, he talks about that, reflects on the battle of San Pasqual in the area in the past and comments on kelp beds and recent environmental history. O'Dell is very much interested in environmental preservation, which comes through clearly in this writing. He has a clear love of the CA coast.

In our studies, we used the book as a jump point in our history study. So when O'Dell talked about Jed Smith in history, we broke off to read more about Jed Smith.

We found the boat/ship terminology a bit tough going at times, especially with my 6yo 1st grader. Even I found it a bit tedious, but then again I'm not a sailor. If you are, that may be the best part of the book for you! History fans will find much to enjoy though in his engaging recounting of some of the events in California's history. My young children love his fictional writing, and much enjoyed this work of his as well. This book is not written for children but those interested in California history will probably much enjoy it.
Of note, we did this book as part the Beautiful Feet History of California Study Guide, which suggests a nice collection of literature from which to study California history.  The guide includes the books, a suggested schedule and suggested comprehension/discussion questions as well as notebooking activities for a full California study.  The guide is suggested for grades 4-8, but we are doing it with a 4th grader and a 1st grader.  My 4th grader is loving it, and my 1st grader struggles with some selections more than others but is overall getting a lot from the study as well. 

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