Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: Fish, by Gregory Mone

     Uncle Gerry glared, one hand still holding the top of the purse. "This is important."
     "Yes, of course."
     "No," Uncle Gerry said, pausing. "This is very important."
     "I understand," Fish said.
     "You will deliver this to the Mary, a passenger ship docked in the harbor, bound for America. You will deliver it, specifically, to a certain Reginald Swift, who will be sailing on that ship."
     "He is an uncommonly small man with uncommonly large eyeglasses. Aged about thirty years, a good few less than your father and myself. He is expecting you."  

Summary: Maurice "Fish" Reidy is eleven years old when Shamrock dies. Without their horse, the family can't afford to feed itself, let alone farm their land. Someone has to go into the city to work and send money home. Since Fish is the worst at farming, it's agreed he should be the one to go.

His father arranges for Fish to work for his uncle as a courier. When Fish is entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, he's robbed before he can make the delivery. He tracks down the thief amongst a bunch of pirates, aboard their ship, the Scurvy Mistress. Determined to get that package back and to its rightful recipient, Fish sneaks aboard and joins the pirate crew. He soon learns the coins are more than what they seem, and some of the crew are not as loyal as they'd have their captain believe.

As the Scurvy Mistress sets sail, Fish finds himself on an adventure he never saw coming, with friends he never imagined making. It's a journey that promises to change his life - and that of his family - forever.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Fish has all the action and excitement your reluctant readers are drawn to. It has all the complex twists and turns your stronger readers crave. And? It has pirates. And treasure. And mystery. And did I mention pirates?

So beyond being a great story your students will not be able to put down, how can you use this book in your classrooms? Under the umbrella of a full Pirate Unit, there is a treasure chest full of activities and mini-units you can choose from. Create an activity to compare and contrast the life of a farmer with the life of a pirate, or a sailor, or both. That will nicely set up a research activity on the life of a pirate: superstitions of pirates, swimming abilities (or not), ship's politics, the running of a pirate ship (jobs aboard ship, procedures followed), pirate's code, pirate-speak, etc. Present a mini-unit on types of ships used by pirates, and their pursuers: sloop, galleon, caravel, frigate, man-o-war, merchant, schooner, brigantine.

Sneak in some more history by having your students research real pirates from history. Let them work in groups and creatively present their findings. Your kids will have great fun with a mapping mini-unit: land maps, treasure maps, sea maps. (You can probably sneak in a literary map, or a character map here, too.) How about a code activity: creating them, then seeing if their classmates can crack them? And just for fun, try a pirate name activity. Have your kids create a chart of the pirate characters from the book, and why they have those names. Then let them create their own pirate names, with explanations, to use for an entire Pirate Day in the classroom.

This is by no means the bottom of that treasure chest. What gems can you come up with?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Fish is a book your kiddos will love to read. And so will you. It has pirates! It has treasure! It has action! It has intrigue! Scurvy pirates with odd names and even odder reasons for those names! It is an adventure from start to finish, and along the way, your kids will learn a little bit about ships, and pirate life, and family, and friendship, and loyalty, and being true to yourself. Read it aloud together, or each of you read it on your own, or a little of both. You'll be glad you did.

For the Kids:
Fish is a book about a boy from a farming family. Though Fish is no good with dirt, it turns out he's pretty good with water. When the family horse dies, Fish is sent to the city to earn money to send home. He becomes a courier, delivering important packages for his Uncle Gerry. One day, he's given a package of mysterious coins to deliver, but they're stolen from him. Fish tracks the thief to a pirate ship. That package must get to the right recipient, so Fish does the only thing he can think of to get it back - he sneaks aboard and joins the pirate crew. But how can a boy who, as author Gregory Mone says, "loves to swim and hates to fight," survive on a pirate ship?  

For Everyone Else:
Fish is fast-paced and action-packed. It has humor, and fact, and a great story. Plus? It has pirates. What more could you ask for?

Wrapping Up:
Fish is not your average pirate tale. Find. Read. Enjoy.

Title: Fish
Author: Gregory Mone
Cover Artist: Jake Parker
Pages: 246
Reading Level: 8 and up
Publisher and Date: Scholastic, Inc., January 2011
Edition: First Scholastic paperback printing
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $4.99
ISBN: 978-0-545-33335-1

Author Spotlight: Gregory Mone

Before he started writing for kids, Gregory Mone wrote for adults. And before that, he worked as a paralegal in Ireland. And before that, he did a bit of banking work. And before all of that, he was history major at Harvard University, graduating in 1998.

Now, Gregory Mone is a novelist for both kids and adults, a magazine writer, a science journalist, and a speaker. He has written two novels for adults, as well as many magazine articles on a wide variety of topics, including: artificial intelligence, robots, physics, biology, Irish mythology, and cartoons.

His first novel for kids, Fish, was published by Scholastic Press in 2010. His second, Dangerous Waters: An Adventure on the Titanic, is scheduled for release in March, 2012, from Roaring Brook.

Born on Long Island, New York, into "an Irish-American family of swimmers and storytellers," Gregory Mone now lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters, and one son.

Gregory Mone blog: About page
Fish: About the Author - Official site for the book, Fish, by Gregory Mone
In Print: Fish by Greg Mone is a great catch, by CK Wolfson