The Sailor Who Captured the Sea

by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

In a couple of other reviews of books I’ve used for introducing children to the topic of ancient manuscripts, I listed The Sailor Who Captured the Sea as a beautiful illustration resource. It is truly lovely.

In her prologue, Deborah Nourse Lattimore briefly describes the Book of Kells. As is fitting for a book whose history is so uncertain, she leaves open the question of what drove the makers of the book to complete such a monumental work. Her story is an attempt to put faces and names to the mist-obscured events of the 9th century.

As with Marguerite Makes a Book, I don’t love this book for the story. I don’t find it terribly imaginative. There are three brothers, two of whom grow up and learn worthwhile trades. The youngest can’t seem to settle down, so he becomes a sailor. Viking attacks force the two older brothers to seek refuge in a monastery where they find themselves working on manuscripts. The younger brother is willing to help, but just can’t get into book making. A series of disasters ensues. There’s a daring rescue and a prophecy and a race against time. When all else fails, the younger brother suddenly finds his groove and saves the day.

This is what I want my students to see:

At the same time I ordered Lattimore’s book, I came across this illustrated introduction to the Book of Kells. It is a well-made, affordable paperback with 110 color illustrations from the Book of Kells. Bernard Meehan supplies details about what is known, surmised, guessed about how the book was made, and the meaning of the pictures and symbols. It’s almost a “teacher’s guide” to The Sailor Who Captured the Sea.

You can learn more about this book at