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The Great Wide Sea Hardcover – October 2, 2008

56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—Ben Byron, 15, is angry. Just two months after the death of his mother in a car accident, his dad, crushed by the loss of his wife, sells their house and small boat and uses the money to buy the Chrysalis, a 30-foot sailboat. He uproots Ben and two younger sons for a yearlong tour of the Bahamas. Life goes as smoothly as it can for a while, despite the tension, chores, and close quarters. But one morning everything changes—their father disappears. When the boat heads into a terrible storm, Ben must act. Throughout the novel, the protagonist's emotions ring true. Although the sailing details are a bit technical at times, Herlong spins an engrossing, suspenseful tale of survival.—Melyssa Malinowski, Kenwood High School, Baltimore, MD
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Soon after their mother’s death, 15-year-old Ben and his two younger brothers are stunned when their father sells their home, buys a sailboat, and announces that they will live on board and cruise the Bahamas for the next year. Wrenched from everything he knows and forced to obey his father-captain’s orders, Ben starts out angry and finds no escape. As he says, “We were always together.” When their father sets a course for Bermuda and disappears overboard one night, the boys have little time to wonder if he jumped or fell before they’re struggling to stay afloat in a fierce Atlantic storm. Lost at sea in a damaged boat, they find their way to an island where they are stranded with little food, little water, and little hope of rescue. Herlong’s first book is a great survival story and a fine portrayal of family relationships in a time of crisis. Justifiably angry, yet logical, reflective, and at times compassionate, Ben makes a sympathetic protagonist, and his brothers are no less appealing. With enough detail to make the settings real and a minimum of metaphor, the first-person narrative is clean and direct. This page-turner of an adventure story is also a convincing, compelling, and ultimately moving novel. Grades 6-10. --Carolyn Phelan

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670063304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063307
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,533,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Sally Anderson on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a fifth grade teacher, I find it difficult to find books that appeal to everyone in my class. I either please the girls, or the boys, and usually it's just the girls. Finally, I have found a book that all of my students enjoy. In fact, for the first time, both boys and girls are begging, "Don't stop. Please keep reading." I even have students begging to take it home so that they can find out what happens next. The Great Wide Sea, by M. H. Herlong, is spell-binding, (even for the adults)!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Matt Jones on November 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The spectacular achievement of this book is that it shows dads what they look like to their teenage sons. It holds the mirror of your son's eyes right up close, where all the unflattering things show. Then it shows us that our sons love us anyway. I finished the book, wiped a way a tear -- something I almost never need to do -- and hugged my sons.

It is definitely a terrific sea yarn. Like all great books, it builds in some wise observations about life without being the least bit preachy. Perhaps that is because the wisdom comes through the voice of a fifteen-year old who, after struggling with dad, becomes the father figure through chance, or maybe through a choice (a question you will have to answer for yourself, Dad). There are also some sly allusions to Hemingway sea tales and to Hurricane Katrina (the author is from New Orleans), but maybe I just made that up.

Read the two-page prologue and you will be hooked. Give it to your son. Give it to your Dad. Read it with your son, or for your husband, or your brother. Sail in your son's boat (or your father, husband, or brother's boat) for a while.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If this is a tale oft told, I can think of no other than has been told so eloquently. The author's descriptions are as vivid as they are beautiful. Male or female, young or old, you will find this first work by M. H. Herlong touching and incisive. If the last portion of the book doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you are cold indeed. Add the information provided at the companion website [...] and you will double your pleasure.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I received this book Friday and read it in one sitting on Sunday. It is excellent in so many dimensions. Young readers will love the gripping plot in the fascinating nautical setting, as well as how the boys, with only themselves to rely on, manage to survive. Older readers will appreciate the near-poetic quality of the prose. Having said that, I have to confess that I was so enthralled by the plot that I hardly had time to appreciate the marvelous language. I may just have to read the book again, slower!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sarah C. on November 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book captures the imagination both as a beautiful and harrowing adventure story and a drama of family loss. The aftermath of his mother's death challenges the narrator's relationship with his father. But when Ben confronts a life and death struggle at sea his bond to his young brothers becomes the focus of this gripping tale.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am 11 years old and just recently read this book. The writer is very good at describing the different points of view but the story is super boring and slow. I mean, I'm three quarter through the book and all I've heard is, "Pull up the main sheet!", "Check the bow!", "Gerry's cuddled up with blankie in the cockpit..." So I'm going to give this two stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Judith Danos on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
suspenseful adventure...insightful characterizations...powerful language...what a gift Madaline Herlong has given to young adult readers and classroom teachers! J. Danos
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Inman on November 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This incredible first novel is a gripping and extremely well told adventure tale that will keep you turning page after page. Though her vivid descriptions will have you feeling each toss and sway of the boat, you realize it is much more. Told through the eyes of the oldest son, it is a poignant story of a family coming to grips with a terrible loss and it is the bond between the father and his sons and the siblings with each other that will ultimately resound in your memory. This is a wonderful story of loss, love, perceived betrayal, and peace. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to future publications by Ms. Herlong.
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