100 Best Books for Children ~ Thaxter

Number 72 on The Hundred Best Books for Children is Celia Thaxter’s Among the Isles of Shoals.

Celia Laighton Thaxter was born in 1835 to a lighthouse keeper in New Hampshire. She grew up on the Isles of Shoals, which is a group of islands off the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine. Her father eventually purchased one of the islands, renamed it Appledore, and opened a hotel there where Thaxter entertained poets such as Whittier, Longfellow, and Emerson.

While mostly known as a writer, Celia Thaxter was considered a “genius” at nearly everything she undertook, including gardening, cooking, and becoming an expert on birds. But it is her poetry most will remember her for.

Among the Isles of the Shoals, considered her most widely known book, was a series of essays about the islands by Thaxter published as a book in 1873. The book was more recently republished by the University Press of New England:

Celia Thaxter was already a popular poet when she began to publish the essays of Among the Isles of Shoals in the Atlantic Monthly in 1869; they were an immediate sensation. Charles Dickens called Thaxter’s essays “admirable” and Horace Greeley declared, “The best prose writing I have seen for a long time is Mrs. Thaxter’s ‘Isles of Shoals’ in the Atlantic. Her pen-pictures are wonderfully well-done.” Published as a book in 1873, Among the Isles of Shoals remained equally popular, printed not only in hardcover but also in a fifty-cent guidebook edition which was sold in railway stations.

This collection of essays or “sketches,” as the author terms them, cover all types of topics including:

  • The sound and the sea.
  • The flora and fauna.
  • The rocks and soil.
  • The old-timers and newcomers.
  • The snails and shells.
  • The wind and weather.
  • The law-abiders and offenders.
  • The fish and the water snakes.
  • The long seasons and short seasons.
  • The sea full of colors and the rocks cold and grey.
  • The lighthouses and “father Neptune.”
  • The sea birds and the song birds.

We entered the quaint little old stone cottage that was for six years our home. How curious it seemed, with its low, whitewashed ceiling and deep window-seats, showing the great thickness of the walls made to withstand the breakers, with whose force we soon grew acquainted! A blissful home the little house became to the children who entered it that quiet evening and slept for the first time lulled by the murmur of the encircling sea. I do not think a happier triad ever existed than we were, living in that profound isolation. It takes so little to make a healthy child happy; and we never wearied of our few resources.

As you can see, the writing is incredibly descriptive — “pen-pictures” indeed! There are a few poems interspersed between essays.

Homeschool families will enjoy this well-written living geography book, particularly for older students or as a family read aloud.

Free eBook

  • Read the work aloud.
  • Ask your students to recall a favorite “pen-picture.” What made it stand out?
  • Have your students illustrate a favorite “pen-picture.”
  • Copy favorite passages into a copybook.
  • Study one of Thaxter’s poems (see below).
  • Older students can try their hand at descriptive writing.
  • Learn more about Horace Greeley. Why would his opinion in the quote above be considered important?
  • There are many, many rabbit trails one could follow: lighthouses, Maine, birds, rocks, weather, poetry.
  • Create an author page for Celia Thaxter (along with the other authors in our series).

Additional Resources
Among the Isles of Shoals

Among the Isles of Shoals (Revisiting New England)
Paperback published by University Press of New England in 2003.

“The Sandpiper” by Celia Thaxter
From our Online Poetry Anthology.

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

Don’t Miss a Thing!

Subscribe to receive updates and additions.

Learn to Write. Write.:

Write Something Every Day

Tools for the Homeschool Handy-Mom

At DIY Homeschooler we provide encouragement and resources to those homeschool handy-moms paving their own way — solutions to help you “do-it-yourself” when it comes to tutoring your children. Learn more.

The Latest

Affiliate Disclosure

Throughout this site you will find affiliate links to items that we trust and enthusiastically recommend. If you decide to use these links to make a purchase, we do receive a small compensation that helps support this site. Thank you! Read our full affiliate disclosure to learn more.

Keep Reading

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com