Giants in the Land
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Giants in the Land
Author: Diana Appelbaum
Major Themes: Trees, Logging, New England, Navy, Ships, Picture Books, Colonial Era (US), American Revolution
Synopsis: Where did the giant trees come from to make the masts for the English navy’s ships?
What an unusual topic for a book! I really enjoyed reading Giants in the Land. It was a fascinating glimpse of the English navy in the 18th century, from an unusual point of view.
The English navy had the largest ships in the world. For these ships, they needed enormous trees to make masts—we couldn’t believe the dimensions of the largest masts! Where could they find trees that size? Certainly not in England, or anywhere in Europe, for that matter. They had to come from New England. The largest white pines growing in the mountains were branded with the mark of the Royal Navy, and in the winter farmers would work on felling the trees and delivering them to the sea, for a bit of extra income.
It took a lot of work to get one mast to the sea. The men had to work out how to fell the tree so that it wouldn’t splinter, and they had to build a road from the grove of trees to the harbor—a straight road. Then, they had to get wheels under it and hitch 20 teams of oxen to it. We were fascinated by the long process it took to get these trees to where they could be used, and especially by what happened to two teams of oxen as they hauled the trees up over the hill.
This book is illustrated with black and white drawings that show every step of the process. They are wonderfully detailed and complement the text very well. Giants in the Land is a great story about a side-note in American history.
Read Aloud—Ages 3 – 4, 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9
Keywords: Trees, Logging, New England, Navy, Ships, Picture Books, Colonial Era (US), American Revolution