Book Review: Bernida: A Michigan Sailing Legend

533be6b226681.preview-300Bernida: A Michigan Sailing Legend is a delightful story about a neglected racing sailboat that survives the ages to prove competitive once again. As with all picture books, the authors Al Declerq , Tom Erwin, and Gloria Whelan must constrain the story to fit within 30 pages. This proved to be a bit difficult because the boat was bought and sold several times – which would provide the authors with several side stories that had to be skipped over to get to the heart of Bernida’s story.

I liked the book.
But, more important than my observations of the story are those of the children that will read or have the book read to them. So, having access to a class of 3rd graders I gave the story a try during read-aloud time. The kids in the class live less than an hour’s drive from large bodies of water but the majority of the class was pretty much unfamiliar with sailing.20140430-120256.jpg

Reading aloud to students:
During the reading I stopped to explain more about why and how the ballast was changed in Bernida. We talked a bit about Michigan and the Great Lakes for geographic review. Also, the book offered discussion about length of time passing. As a teacher I found that it was a treasure trove of math and social studies integration.

The kids gave it very high ratings.
Some kids rated it as their favorite picture book yet. When asked what they thought some comments were:
“I felt sad for the boat because it sat in a barn for 25 years.”
“It was a good story, but I wouldn’t want it read to me at night because the storms would scare me.”
“It is a perfect book! My favorite!”
“I want to learn how to sail!”

I spoiled the book a bit:
By reading the last page that offers more information about the boat I disappointed the majority of the kids. In that section the authors share the fact that Luke, the child character throughout the story, is a fictional character. That kind of seemed to bum them out because they believed the story was completely nonfiction. While all events in the story are true the authors inserted a boy to drive the story plot a bit better.

Final thought:
It was fun to see the kids really rooting for Bernida to win the race in the final pages of the book. It was a fantastic way to expose them to sailing in a way that catches their imagination and hopefully, their interest in sailing.

Book available at Amazon

The adult version is a book called: Bernida: A True Story That Can’t Be True available on Amazon

More information about the Bernida can be found at the maritime museum, or its website at www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org online by searching the yacht’s name.