The Serpent Came to Gloucester

book cover: The Serpent Came to GloucesterWhat better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than with an exciting story told in verse?  M. T. Anderson's The Serpent Came to Gloucester is just such a story.  It's based on a true series of events that took place in Gloucester, Massachusetts - not 40 miles from Somerville - during the summers of 1817 and 1818. Hundreds of people reported seeing a sea serpent playing in the harbor and around the shores of Cape Ann, and the author references some of the many eyewitness accounts in a note at the end of the book. Anderson uses the voice of an old man who is recalling the story for a child to describe what happened:

I looked down the shore at the water's edge While hanging my smock out to dry, And saw, past the ridge of the rocky, old ledge, Where the moss met the stones and the sky,

The shimmer of ripples, the whip of a tail, The loops of a beast from the deep. My mother drew breath and looked paler than death. I dropped all my socks in a heap.

Then it sank in the sea, in the sunny sea, It sank in the summertime sea.

The book is illustrated with wonderful paintings by Bagram Ibatoulline, who successfully captures a bit of the flavor of the place and the time. The Serpent Came to Gloucester may be the closest any of us ever come to an encounter with a sea serpent. But then again...never say never...

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