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Fish Hardcover – June 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–"Fish" Reidy leaves his impoverished family farm in Ireland to be a messenger for his uncle in the city. When someone steals one of his deliveries, he swims after the thief's ship. He finds himself aboard the Scurvy Mistress, along with its determined treasure seeker Captain Cobb, the captain's wife, and a motley crew consisting of One-eyed Willies, British ex-Royal Navy men, and mutinous scalawags. The crew remains loyal to Cobb only as long as their stomachs and coffers stay full, and his idealistic decision to search for the legendary golden chain of Chuacar pushes the greedy first mate to stage an island mutiny. Fish draws on the skills he picked up from the crew members to rescue Cobb and those loyal to the captain. His boisterous and pungent shipboard adventures will sit well alongside favorites like Heather Vogel Frederick's The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed (S & S, 2002) and Avi's The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Scholastic, 1990). The sights and smells of life on the high seas, complete with descriptions of bathroom facilities, will give children new insight into this risky career path. Mone seamlessly integrates factual information into his tale of friendship, loyalty, and exploration. As Fish travels from farm to city to ship, he discovers his place in the world, and his moral compass helps to ground and direct the story. His decision not to engage in fighting and his efforts to stop the mutiny will provide points for group discussion. Fish makes a splashing good addition to adventure fiction.Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
For his first book for children, Mone digs from that most reliable of wells—the pirate adventure. Maurice, nicknamed Fish, is more at home in the water than on the fields of his Irish family’s farm, and after a few zigs and zags, he ends up as a swab-boy aboard the Scurvy Mistress. He learns that pirates break down into two camps: those who quest after legendary booty, like the noble Captain Cobb, and those, like first-mate Scab, who are only interested in bloody raids of every passing ship. Fish’s cleverness, courage, and underwater prowess get put to the test in a series of treasure mappings, sea battles, and traitorous mutinies. The humorous and slightly postmodern tint of the story is evident in the subspecies of grizzled rascals packed onto the ship, like the Scalawags of Sausage (cured-meat enthusiasts). Is it possible to have too many solid pirate yarns? Although this one doesn’t map out much new territory, it’s a good one to crowd onboard. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman
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Top Customer Reviews
Maurice "Fish" Reidy gets thrown around quite a bit in this story. He earns the nickname, Fish, after being hurled into a lake by one of his brothers. That's when everyone in his life, including himself, discovers his amazing swimming abilities. Because he is the weakest link on the family farm, amongst all his brothers and sisters, he is thrust into city life, to work as a courier for his uncle. He gets catapulted into the pirate's life after botching a crucial delivery. Once aboard the Scurvy Mistress, his life on solid ground ceases, and his adventure at sea begins.
You feel as if you are there with Fish, our hero in the making, stumbling upon the motley crew of the Scurvy Mistress and going through the excruciating trials and tribulations of becoming a pirate and treasure hunter. Every bone in Fish is tested, especially his will to fight for justice without throwing any punches. Fish awakens all of the senses in its details, particularly smell. Mone writes it; you smell it. Your nose wrinkles up as Fish, being the lowest on the totem pole, has to scrub the "seats of easement" and gets too close to pirate's breath and feet. Suspense and action are raw, with each chapter leaving you hungry for more.
Anyone looking for the next big screen blockbuster, Fish is served!
He also doesn't care. His sole mission is to retrieve the bag of gold coins which Nate had stolen from him. When the head pirate Cobb decides that his crew will sail their ship to lay in wait for a freighter bound for America, Fish launches his own "raid". He finds the gold coins that his uncle had entrusted him with and attempts to deliver them to their rightful owner. Unfortunately, Fish gets caught. In the interrogation that follows, Fish learns that some pirates are raiders while others are seekers. The "raiding" pirates believe that attacking every ship in the water is the swiftest way to fortune. (These are the bad pirates.) In contrast, "seeking" pirates prefer to undertake challenging quests. The Scurvy Mistress is manned by both types, a division which eventually leads to a mutiny.
Before Fish learns whose side everyone is on, or even figures out for himself which side he should take, he spends hours swabbing the decks of The Scurvy Mistress clean. Fish also fills his stomach with dreadful gruel and hardtack. And he sleeps on ragged bits of old sailcloth in one corner of the main cabin. If that doesn't sound too grand, why would Fish agree to stay? Well, earlier in the story, the family horse dies, and Mr. Reidy declares that one of their children will have to work in the city and send home money to help out. Unlike his eight other siblings, Fish is inept at farm work. For that reason, Fish is taken into town to work for an uncle. Fish is actually on the way to deliver a bag of coins that his uncle entrusted him with, when Nate robs him. Being honorable, Fish pursues Nate--even when this means climbing aboard a menacing boat. Thus begins an adventure where Fish not only has to decide which pirates to defend, he also faces other choices. For example, should he interfere with Cobb's orders, when a fellow pirate is sentenced to walk the plank for betraying the crew? Or should he fight when challenged to a duel, despite his abhorrence of violence? Although Mone isn't blatant about themes, he does interweave into Fish the values of family, friendship, pacifism (which might seem like an oxymoron in a pirate book) and being true to self. Their subtle inclusion is part of what makes Fish stand out from typical adventure stories.
Time to talk treasure! Every good pirate story must include it. Fish is no exception. Initially, all that anyone on board knows is that head pirate Cobb seeks a treasure that will render the ship's treasure chest of coins "as worthless as pebbles and stones". Cobb also promises that every member of the crew will receive a share large enough to buy a herd of horses. That's enough to make Fish give up on the idea of retrieving that bag of coins his uncle gave him. Remember how I mentioned that there would be a mutiny? Well, the treasure also causes some divisions among the other crew members. To reveal anything beyond this little enticement would spoil your reading of Fish. What I can tell you is that in the years before Mone wrote Fish, he'd arrange treasure hunts for his nieces and nephews. Each hunt grew more elaborate and complex, until eventually his nieces and nephews asked Mone to write a pirate story. The result was Fish.
Before I conclude my review, I also need to praise the description in this book. It is so meticulous! For example, this is how Mone paints Fish's dive into the undersea world: "The line dragged him through a multicolored world full of purple, fernlike waving plants, giant yellow rocks covered with small grooves and challenges, fish of all shapes and colors." And here's how he portrays Cobb: "He was distinguished, with tightly curled gray hair, fine clothes, and the stem of an unlit pipe held between his lips. His ears were large, pressed back flat against his head, and his skin was tanned, with a faded but thick red scar on his chin. A thin, pronounced nose added to the air of nobility." As for the treasure, sorry, but I still can't tell you about it. Now I recognize that all this attention to details might bore those who grew up on video games of non-stop action and movies drowning in special effects. Most readers will however love the opportunity to settle into a rip-roaring tale of an unlikely hero on the high seas.
After all, what better adventure could one ask for than a soaking-good seafaring pirate story about a treasure hunt? There's even a dash of romance and humor. Just be sure that when you do borrow Fish, you can curl up for a long read. It's that good!