Captain Mac–A Fabulous Class/Team Read

MAMLE Conference attendees will have a chance to meet Mary Morton Cowan, author of Captain Mac: The Life of Donald Baxter MacMillan, Arctic Explorer, on Friday, October 18 at Point Lookout. Sit with her overlooking Penobscot Bay and chat about interesting ways to use this award winning biography in your social studies and science classes or as a class or team read. Do you have students who loved Hatchet and Lost on a Mountain in MaineCaptain Mac is another real-life adventure book you can recommend to them. Another cool aspect of this biography is that there are so many Maine connections–MacMillan lived in Freeport and went to Bowdoin, his boat was named the Bowdoin and was built in East Boothbay, and the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center at Bowdoin College in Brunswick is named for him. In a time when there is growing emphasis on incorporating more informational text into the curriculum, connecting with Mary Morton Cowan to learn more about Donald MacMillan is an opportunity not to be missed.

Mary’s book has won national recognition:

  • 2010 — National Outdoor Book Award–Children’s Category
  • 2010 — John Burroughs Association List of Outstanding Nature Books for Young Readers
  • 2010 — Honor Book Award from Society of School Librarians International–Social Studies, Grades 7-12 category
  • 2011– Bank Street College, Best Children’s Books of the Year

Here’s what the reviewers have to say:

From the School Library journal: “The author skillfully weaves primary-source quotes with short, action-oriented sentences (e.g., Mac was lucky to escape alive!). The grimmer aspects of Arctic life (drownings, amputations, and eating the weakest dogs) are mentioned but not addressed in detail. This engaging biography is also a solid overview of an era of exploration that still captivates adventurous youths.”

From Booklist: “…the severe hardships and wild beauties of the Arctic come through as strongly as her case for the significance of his achievements.”

From Amazon customers:

“CAPTAIN MAC reads like fiction, so fascinating. But all the more amazing because it’s TRUE! Wow, what a life MacMillan lived. The author’s research was impressive. His story would make a great read-aloud for Gr. 3-5, but it would also appeal to middle school up to adult readers. I’ll be looking for this book on some award lists for the year–it’s truly deserving!”

“CAPTAIN MAC reads much like a novel, yet is meticulously researched, and chocked full of vintage black and white photos.”

“Mary Morton Cowan visits Mac’s boat, the Bowdoin, as tenderly as she would call on a beloved family member. She watched Mac set sail in it for the Arctic in 1954. Mary’s grandfather and Mac were friends. Mary’s family’s factory made sledges for Mac in 1913. Mary is an avid sailor herself. Add these facts together, and readers have not only a fascinating story about a courageous character, they also have a story told from from heart”

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About Jill Spencer

I taught middle school for many years, and now I consult with schools across the country and internationally in the areas of curriculum and instruction, including technology integration. Please also check out my blog about middle school teaming at http://teamingrocks.wordpress.com/. Other publications include: Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success Everyone’s Invited! Interactive Strategies That Engage Young Adolescents 10 Differentiation Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge
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