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The Serpent Came to Gloucester Hardcover – May 10, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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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
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Lexile Measure: NP (What's this?)
  • 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 (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The rhyme scheme and the illustrations are instantly understandable to young people. The giant double-page pictures pull your eyeballs into the paper and put you into the village.

The next summer, when the men come to hunt the sea serpent, it is surprising how many of them wear eye patches -- I count five. And why would they lift the eye patch to see better?

Always with the lyrical descriptions of the sea -- mirroring the emotion of the story.

And... it happened in America in 1817. Cool.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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. My son is now five and he loves this book. The illustrations are fantastic and the story is fun and captivating.
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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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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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