Title: Ocean-Born Mary
Author: Lois Lenski
Major Themes: New Hampshire, New England, Pirates
Synopsis: When Mary had a chance to live for a while in the seaport town of Strawberry Bank, she made the most of her opportunity to experience everything about life there.
Lois Lenski is a favorite author in our house. Every year, we have a one-month reading challenge; each school-age child who reads for a certain amount of time each day that month earns the privilege of choosing a book, which I buy for him. This year, my 11-year-old chose Ocean-Born Mary. I was surprised when it arrived to see how thick it was—easily twice as thick as most of the other books by this author! We enjoyed reading this historical novel.
Mary was excited to be traveling with her family from Nutfield to Strawberry Bank (now Portsmouth, New Hampshire). She could hardly wait to see the ocean and experience life in a seaport town. During the months she lived with relatives there, she repeatedly ran into the pirate who had saved her life as a newborn. Over and over, she had to make choices about her reaction to him and to her aunt who hated the man.
A ship was being built during the time Mary lived in Strawberry Bank, and she eagerly watched every step of the process. Then came the launch, the first voyage…and disaster. Now Mary really had challenges to face!
Ocean-Born Mary is a delightful peek into life and attitudes in colonial New England. It is based on a real woman, although so little is known of her life that most of the story is invented. We enjoyed watching Mary learning about life and becoming braver as time went on. We were appalled at the attitudes and actions of the British government officials. Some people were maddening; others were lovable. And the pirate? He remained enigmatic!
WARNING: Chapter 7: the pirates sing a song about killing people on page 120, and on page 123 a woman tells a lie.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15