Sailing for clues: Former Cumberland teacher seeks owner of lost book

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CUMBERLAND — Several years ago, a student brought an old children’s book into Nancy Simmons’s Greely Middle School classroom, but never took it home.

After Simmons had left the sixth-grade language arts position she was surprised to discover “The Sailor Dog” in her personal library. An inscription on the title page makes getting the book to its rightful owner all the more important to the Topsham woman.

“To Andrew, May you grow up to be my ‘Crew’ on Atalanta with Lisa & Stephie (or Stiphie) too,” it reads. “We love you, Love Aunt Judy Uncle George Max.”

“There’s got to be somebody out there that is going to recognize that, or have a connection to it,” Simmons said Monday. “… I didn’t put it in my box of books; somehow it got there. But I want it back to that family.”

She thinks the book was left during the 2008-09 or 2009-10 school years.

Simmons, who now works for the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, spent 12 years at Greely before leaving in 2011.

“Since then, I’ve had this incredible … desire to return the book to the family,” she said. “… It bothers me that I have this family’s book, that is inscribed in such a special way.”

“Andrew” was the prime suspect. Checking her old class lists, Simmons narrowed her search down to one Andrew, but he was not the right one. Still, “wrong Andrew” was curious enough about the mystery to lend his old teacher a hand. He polled former classmates, to no avail, and the search remained at square one.

Simmons now wonders if the Andrew in question is the parent of the student who first brought the book into the classroom. Simmons vaguely recalls a student telling her that his or her parents permitted the book – a 1981 edition of the 1953 book by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Garth Williams – to come to school “under duress,” and that it had been handed down in the family.

But Simmons can’t recall who that student was, or even if it was a boy or girl. He or she may have been part of the school’s Jewell Island student team, in a classroom housed in a downstairs wing of the school that faces the playing fields.

Anyone who can help solve this mystery is encouraged to email Simmons at, or reach out to The Forecaster on her behalf.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Nancy Simmons of Topsham, a former language arts teacher at Greely Middle School in Cumberland, is trying to track down the owner of “The Sailor Dog,” a children’s book left in her classroom several years ago.The title page of this edition of “The Sailor Dog” bears an inscription that may lead the book back to its rightful owner: “To Andrew, May you grow up to be my ‘Crew’ on Atalanta with Lisa & Stiphie (or Stephie) too,” it reads. “We love you, Love Aunt Judy Uncle George Max.”

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.