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The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong

The Great Wide Sea (edition 2010)

by M.H. Herlong

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2771840,824 (3.96)2
This is a very exciting story about three boys and their father who set sail for a year-long voyage through the Bahamas after the death of the boys' mother. The book takes many unexpected twists and turns as the voyage progresses. Grief and despair are tempered by deep family bonds and respect. Beautiful writing! ( )
  suzanneriches | Apr 15, 2011 |
Showing 18 of 18
Not bad but not great. I expected more. Great characters but the plot was lacking. ( )
  ferrisscottr | Jun 18, 2013 |
I personally just liked this book, but I think if you were more of a fan of adventure stories, or what a lot of people classify as "boy" books, then you would love this one. It's about three boys after their mom dies, when their dad decides to take them on a sailing trip in the Bahamas. One night, he disappears. The boys must struggle on to survive without him. Will they make it through alive?

Nominated for MSBA 2009-2010. ( )
  scote23 | Mar 30, 2013 |
Book: The Great Wide Sea
Author: M.H. Herlong
Characters: Ben, Dylan and Gerry
Setting: Florida Keys, family boat
Theme: Family dynamics in the face of grief and adventure.
Genre: Realistic Fiction Adventure
Audience: ages 12 and up
Curriculum: Good for learning an English literature course or recommendation during star reading.
Summary: Three young boys suffer the loss of their mother and watch as their father works through the grief as they figure out how to deal as well. On a whim their father decides that they are going to go on a year long boat trip in the Florida Keys but they encounter more than just the adventure of a trip to sea. They can’t find their father and they must survive the stormy weather of the Florida Keys on their own.
Personal Response:
I think this is a great book for someone who has to deal with the death of someone close and also having to watch others manage grief. The boys have to manage their own way of grieving for their mother’s sudden passing but also must watch as their father deals with the sorrow in a way that seems to overwhelm him but appears selfish because eventually his boys are left alone to deal with their own devices at sea. They learn to survive and depend solely on each other through storms, sickness and specifically Ben has to manage his grief. Ben becomes the one to lead his brothers and take care of them. But we see that he holds anger and resentment towards his father for not being around because he can’t grieve. He has to stay strong for his brothers and survive. But then we see him grow through that resentment and find release past the grief and he and his brothers continue their lives with their Dad. ( )
  Je2nif4 | Mar 16, 2013 |
Herlong, M.H. The Great Wide Sea. New York: Viking (member of Penguin Group), 2008

Characters: Ben (oldest brother); Dylan (middle brother); Gerry (youngest brother); their father

Setting: Bahamas (country consisting of more than 3,000 islands, cays and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Cuba and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys)

Theme: adventure; survival; family relationships, sailing

Genre: young adult realistic fiction

Golden Quote: “The thing about life is that it goes on. You wake up and there is the sun like always. There is your own body with bad breath and bruises and a headache. You have to move. You have to pee. You have to drink. No matter what happened the day before, you wake up and there is life and you have to do something about it.”

Summary: Still mourning the death of their mother, three brothers go with their father on an extended sailing trip off the Florida Keys and have a harrowing adventure at sea.

Audience: grade level: 7th and up; age level: 12 and up

Curriculum ties: computer skills- have students build a website about anything relevant to novel (example- a website about sharks, coral reefs, signals of distress, sailing, technical boating and sailing terms, etc.); language arts- write newspaper articles about the family (their mother’s accident, a feature on how the boys survived for so long on a deserted island, etc.); social studies- study cultures and people of the Bahamas; geography- plot the journey of the family as they left the Florida Keys to the island they were living on using a map; make a travel guide for places mentioned in story; astronomy- discuss the stars and how they have helped people navigate the seas for centuries; mathematics- discuss and create real world problems that related to to navigation and how navigation instruments are used; science- how do boats work?, describe the technology behind motorized sailboats.

Awards: Rebecca Caudill nominee, 2011; one of YALSA’S of the top ten books for young adults, 2010; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award nominee, 2010

Personal response: The Great Wide Sea is a fast-paced action novel with great action. The three brothers find themselves on a journey of survival and discovery as they cope with the sudden and tragic death of their mother and then the mysterious disappearance of their father while on a year long sailing trip with their father (who is also trying to cope with his wife’s sudden death as well). It is full of descriptive nautical/sailing terms and vocabulary readers will find manageable within the context of the story, regardless of their experiences with boating or sailing The story is intertwined with vivid flashbacks, told through the main character Ben, which will strongly appeal to readers’ emotionally. Readers will be able to identify with him as he tries ensure the safety of his brothers, to make sense of his father’s somewhat strange behavior, and to come into his own through the events in the story.

One issue I did have with this novel is the father’s questionable behavior and actions. He never once listened to what his sons wanted or what they were going through, and his disappearance
seemed quite convenient in the sense that he left his sons in a boat with a broken radio and GPS during storm season. I know this makes for a dramatic adventurous plot line, I couldn't help but dislike their father. When their father does come back into the boys lives (spoiler alert!), he still possess no redeeming character traits in the end, which was overall disappointing. ( )
  Angie.Patterson | Mar 16, 2013 |
Sailing adventure and survival! Ben's father has done the unthinkable: he's sold the family home, bought a 30-foot sailboat, and anounced that Ben and his two little brothers will all be joining him on a year-long sail arond the Caribbean. Ben's mother died in a car accident recently, and the family is grieving her loss. Learning to sail and manage chores and schoolwork on a small ship is hard enough, but Ben can't get any time alone to think... none of them can. When their father announces that they will be sailing overnight to Bermuda, Ben goes to sleep expecting Dad to awaken him for the early morning watch. When he finally wakes up on his own, Dad has disappeared overboard along with the distress beacon, and they are headed into a violent storm. Survival becomes the goal, with each brother contributing what he can to help. A great story of family relationships as well as sailing and survival! 7th grade and up. ( )
  KarenBall | Sep 23, 2011 |
Ben celebrates his 16th birthday... on a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean. Let's back up: Ben's mother is killed in a random car crash. Grief-stricken and looking for a fresh start, his Dad pulls up stakes and takes Ben and his two brothers on a sailing adventure. What starts as kinda weird 'adventure' turns into a life-and-death drama. At one point, Ben and his brother are left to fend for themselves through abandonment, tropical storm, shipwreck, and disease. Ben comes to realize that he has strength and determination he never thought he possessed. This story has lots of page-turning moments as well as many heart-felt incidents -- a near classic tale of physical and emotional survival.

The brothers relationship is particularly well-drawn. The Dad's stubborn and, at times, cruel actions make him not very sympathetic. The sailing terms may put off some and the 180' turn-around at the end of the books is a bit too neat -- definitely worth book-talking. ( )
  mjspear | Sep 3, 2011 |
This is a very exciting story about three boys and their father who set sail for a year-long voyage through the Bahamas after the death of the boys' mother. The book takes many unexpected twists and turns as the voyage progresses. Grief and despair are tempered by deep family bonds and respect. Beautiful writing! ( )
  suzanneriches | Apr 15, 2011 |
After their mother's death, Ben's dad sells the house and tells his three boys they'll be living and sailing on a boat for the year. Of course, the worst happens when Dad disappears from the boat and the boys are on their own facing an incredible storm. The brothers each have a unique set of skills which are needed in their attempt to survive. An engaging page turner. ( )
  ewyatt | Feb 12, 2011 |
This book so impressed me. The action was fast and furious yet the descriptions of setting and the characters were tremendously well drawn. I could not put it down. ( )
  GaylDasherSmith | Oct 11, 2010 |
  WenonaSchool | Sep 15, 2010 |
this book is a wonderful mistery on when they loose their father and how they find out were he is and how they find him.
  ella7351 | Sep 3, 2010 |
Recommended Ages: Gr. 7-12

Plot Summary: After the sudden loss of their mom in a car accident, Mr. Byron announces they will be spending the next year at sea on their new sailboat. Much to the dismay of the three brothers, their house is packed up and sold. At first, they just sail around the Caribbean, spending a few weeks in different cities. Their father is strict and impersonal. He doesn't allow the boys to share their opinion in his grief which frustrates Ben to the point that he runs away. After coming back the next morning, Ben chooses not to engage his dad in a fight about his dad's ridiculous idea to sail around the world, starting with the Atlantic Ocean. Without a working radio, they head off the next morning and have a successful day at sea. When Ben wakes up the following morning, he finds his dad has completely disappeared overboard with the EPIRB (like a GPS) leaving Ben and his brothers by themselves at sea with no idea where they are. A huge storms hits and thankfully their boat manages to get stuck in some rocks on a completely deserted island. They live there for months, gathering and hunting food and creating a system for getting fresh water, until Dylan breaks his leg badly when falling off a cliff trying to get food. When Ben realizes Dylan needs medical attention or he's going to die, he leaves his brothers on the island and takes the little dinghy boat to try to find help.

Setting: Starts in Florida keys, then they sail around the Caribbean

Characters: James Benjamin Byron "Ben" - 15 y/o - turns 16 on the boat, gets a toy car
Chrysalis - sailboat
Dylan Byron - 10 y/o
Gerry Byron - 6 y/o

Recurring Themes: survival, sailing, family, loss

Controversial Issues:
pg 70 - "Go to hell. Go to hell--all of you!"
pg 101 - "one guy tried to hustle me some marijuana."

Personal Thoughts: Despite the fact that I know nothing about sailing, I understood and enjoyed this book even with all of the sailing descriptions. I mostly just ignored them and paid attention to the relationships between the characters which were authentic.

Genre: survival adventure, drama
  pigeonlover | Jul 22, 2010 |
Sailing, survival, adventure. I can't even describe the story without giving something away. It's a great story for boys, with very detailed sailing passages, suck-in-your-breath scary moments, a little gore, and a shark, of course. The author holds you in the story all the way to the very last page. ( )
  kgarneau | Jul 8, 2010 |
After the loss of their mother and the disappearance of their father, Ben, Dylan and Gerry must try to survive alone on an uninhabited island.
Not a great ending; how were they not trying harder to be rescued? ( )
  millme | Jul 4, 2010 |
I like this cover much better than the one shown on the right.....I have tried to "sell" this book to kids at my 7th/8th grade campus and I always have had to say - don't get discouraged by the boring cover - it's a great book! The old cover is the cover of the one in my library so I'm going to be looking for this new cover when I buy the 2nd copy for the library. The kids adore this book - a great tale of survival and family relationships. ( )
  cherylruth60 | Apr 14, 2010 |
Three motherless boys are left alone on the ocean after losing their father at sea. This book is appropriate for gr 4 and up. The story begins with character introductions and the reader soon discovers the loss of the the boys' mother. Their father is set on taking them for an around the world sail and they each have mixed emotions about the trip. This is a story of survival, family bonds, redemption and forgiveness. Great for a discussion starter regarding family relationships--particularly suited to middle school aged students.
  susanmartling | Mar 8, 2010 |
it was a ok book not my fav ( )
  boisvertb | Jan 8, 2010 |
After their mother's death, three boys leave on a year-long sailing trip with their grieving dad who just wants to get away. At the end of the year, dad decides he's not ready to go home yet, and turns the boat towards Bermuda - 900 miles of open ocean away. One morning the boys wake up, their father is no longer on the boat, and they have no idea where they are. ( )
  lilibrarian | May 13, 2009 |
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