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The Serpent Came to Gloucester Hardcover – May 10, 2005


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Library Binding edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763620386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763620387
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.4 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5–Rhyming text recounts the early-19th-century sighting of a large, mysterious sea serpent off the coast of Gloucester, MA. In keeping with the historical record, Anderson tells how the whole fishing village repeatedly viewed the creature until it disappeared with the onset of winter; the following summer, thinking they had sighted it far out on the sea, men set out to kill it, only to discover in the end that they had caught a huge mackerel. The narrator would seem to be a boy who runs through the streets announcing the arrival of the strange visitor. Ultimately, readers learn that an old man is recounting this boyhood ex perience for his grandchild. Formal, highly detailed paintings done in acrylic gouache are somber in tone and fill single or double pages. The shiny serpent is more a curiosity than a monstrous threat. Both verse and pictures create a vivid sense of long ago and far away. Yet, the story is a bit flat and somewhat confusing after the dead mackerel scene when the boy and some fishermen row out and view two creatures at play. Was this a dream or a bit of fantasy? All other references, including the author's concluding note on the history of this and other New England sea-serpent sightings, speak of just a single creature. The poetry reads well, and the story is a somewhat nostalgic recollection rather than a dramatic encounter. An evocative introduction to poetic narrative, local legends, or an exploration of a tantalizing subject.– Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 2-4. The versatile author of works as varied as Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (2001), Feed (2002), and Whales on Stilts (2005) pens a ballad that many will assume came straight from some leather-bound volume of romantic poetry. Inspired by the reported appearances of a sea serpent frolicking in Gloucester harbor in 1817, Anderson writes from the perspective of a boy who witnesses the creature's visitations and is secretly pleased when it evades glory-seeking hunters. Ibatoulline, whose classically inspired artwork has graced Hana in the Time of the Tulips (2004) and others, provides refined gouache paintings that would look at home framed in gilt in a maritime museum. The period sensibility extends to endpapers resembling the decorative, blue-and-white ceramic tiles popular at the time. Many children won't respond to the contained illustration style and distant perspectives, which downplay the story's fantasy elements. But if read aloud with feeling, the poem's forceful rhythms will keep the attention of most audiences, as will the endnote about the legend, which includes additional resources, all written for adults. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

M. T. Anderson is the author of The Game of Sunken Places, Burger Wuss, Thirsty, and Feed, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

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See all 10 customer reviews
A beautifully illustrated tale told in mesmerizing rhythms that just beg to be read out loud.
Delighted Reader
Being from Gloucester I had grown up hearing stories of the Gloucester sea serpent, and thought this book would be a great way to share this story with my son.
James Garron
I bought this book because I could read it a thousand times and never get tired of reading it.
Wendy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It has been documented that in August of 1817 the residents of Gloucester, a small Massachusetts fishing village, saw a rather frightening sight - a gigantic sea serpent swimming off the coast. Evidently, these reports caused a bit of a stir as a number of people came to study this sea creature and others came in hopes of capturing it. All to no avail.

As told by M. T. Anderson in captivating rhyme this is the story of that serpent and of how the people in the village gradually almost became accustomed to their startling new neighbor. He begins with:

"It was on a day when the sun was bright,

When the limpets were thick on the rocks,

When the seagulls would squawk

And would talk and would fight

For the fish laid to dry on the docks."

Thus, Anderson is a bit of a Scherazade as he escorts readers through first the initial sighting by a young boy, next to the townspeople watching the serpent play in the water, and then to the men coming with weapons, singing "killing songs."

According to historical records, a Captain Rich came the closest by claiming to have harpooedn the creature but the serpent shook off the harpoon and swam away.

Bagram Iratoulline's illustrations are lovely, luminous, evoking the scenes of 19th century New England and the mysterious beauty of the ocean.

- Gail Cooke
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Delighted Reader on June 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Just what you hope for in a picture book! A beautifully illustrated tale told in mesmerizing rhythms that just beg to be read out loud. In the classic tradition of well-made books, the entire book--from concept to cover--is thoughtfully conceived and executed. All the pieces work together to create a memorable experience for readers young and old. The surprising fact that the story is based on historical events in Cape Ann, Massachusetts-revealed in an author's note at the back of the book-just adds to the wonder of it all. It's a keeper!
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Format: Hardcover
"It came from the sea, from the lonely sea,
It came from the glittering sea."
In August of 1817, the people of Gloucester, Massachusetts, reported seeing a sea serpent playing in their harbor. Author M. T. Anderson researched original nineteenth-century accounts of the mystery creature before writing this poetic picture book narrated by a feisty fictional boy.
Rhymed text as rhythmic as a sea chantey impels the story forward. Gloucester residents quickly grow accustomed to the playful visitor's presence, and their initial fear changes to fascination and even fondness. After the creature disappears in autumn, winter seems long and lonely.
When the serpent returns the following spring, fishermen come from neighboring towns intent on killing the monster, but young readers will recognize that such a capricious creature could never be caught.
Bagram Ibatoulline's acrylic gouache paintings blend realism and wonder on every page. Luminous seascapes reflect the natural beauty and mythic mystery of the tale. A single painting of the village in winter, waiting in snowy stillness, offers arresting contrast to scenes of the leaping sea waves and lively serpent.
My daughter called it called it "a remarkable book, as a read-aloud or for independent young readers, that many can enjoy--whether or not they already have a love of the sea."
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By Rex Fields on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a person very concerned about the environment but also fiercely imaginative, I loved this book about a serpent eluding whalers and fishermen. But the scene at the end, where the father is describing how modern times have changed nature to the point where the boy will likely never see the serpent is all too real to me. I have sat with my son on my lap and been unable to finish reading the last phrase while contemplating what we've done to nature. The text is both beautiful and very sad to me. I don't know if my son would have naturally loved this story, he is not drawn to melancholy things. But I have read it to him so many times that it is now one of his favorites and something we both hold dear. As a writer and illustrator, I can only hope that publishers continue to have the courage to produce books of this caliber.
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By Jane on April 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This beautiful picture book should be read aloud, even if you are reading it aloud to yourself, because the sea-shanty rhythm of the text adds a musical depth to this gorgeous and haunting narrative. I should have been too jaded to enjoy this--in the course of writing my own picture book on the Loch Ness monster, I read a bunch of sadly soggy sea serpent stories. But M. T. Anderson's contribution to the genre rises way above that waterline. The tale is plot-driven enough for younger children and monster afficionadoes, but also had emotional overtones that captivated even my older twin daughters.
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