“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fish • Middle-grade fiction

by Gregory Mone
Available now • Scholastic • Ages 9 and up
Story:  Maurice Reidy -- nicknamed "Fish" because of his incredible swimming abilities -- is sent to work as a courier to help support his struggling family.  Entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, fish is waylaid by pirates who abscond with his delivery.  But he's determined to get the coins back by joining the crew:  some of the wiliest (and smelliest -- something those reluctant readers will love!) pirates on the high seas.
On board the pirate ship, Fish learns two things:  that the strange coins could be the key to finding a fabulous treasure, and that the nasty first mate, Scab, could be planning a mutiny.  Can Fish retrieve the coins, find the treasure, save his family, and thwart Scab's dastardly plans? 
Story behind the story:  As a contributing editor at POPULAR SCIENCE and freelance magazine writer, Gregory Mone has written articles about intelligent robots, Irish mythology, cartoons, and alternative energy for many publications.  The author of two books, FISH is his first novel for kids and I asked him to tell us a bit about how it came to be:  "I’m tempted to greet you with an emphatic “argghhh,” but the pirates in FISH don’t speak that way", says Mone. "They’re a bit more articulate, and odd. The story, written under strict orders from my nieces and nephews, is packed with adventures and centered around a brain-teasing treasure hunt. As a reader, though, I’ve always been drawn to characters first, so I worked for years to come up with a unique crew of rogues, including a gourmand (based on my mechanic), a gargantuan scholar, a songwriter, some delightfully nasty villains, and Fish himself, a boy who loves to swim and hates to fight.

I’ve seen how boys (yes, they read!) and girls are responding to FISH, and I’d love to visit more libraries and schools or hear what you think of the book. Email me - greg [at] fishthepirate.com - to discuss a visit."

PS:  Some details (per Gregory's website) in FISH were borrowed from family history. Maurice "Fish" Reidy was named for Gregory's grandfather, and though the real Maurice wasn't much of a swimmer, he did cross the ocean on a boat when he immigrated to the United States from Ireland. Gregory's grandmother Brigid was forced to leave her family farm when their horse, Shamrock, died. She, too, came to America and, like Fish, had to send money back home to support her family.  Gregory IS quite passionate about swimming; he was a nationally ranked competitive swimmer.

Lots of info on the author's website where you can "Meet the Pirates" and read sample chapters -- plus a Booktalk at Scholastic's site.

Thematic connections: 
Courage and Honor, Determination and Perseverance, Growing Up

"Chock full of real historic curiosities about pirates, sly humor for grownups, excellent action scenes and general quantities of swash and buckle, Fish is a great, self-contained addition to the canon of fun pirate fiction. Perfect for young readers, even better for reading aloud at bed-time, thanks to the plentiful cliff-hangers." -- Cory Doctorow's review on boingboing

"...an entertaining, rollicking read that challenges as well captivates...full of humor, quick-witted dialogue, well-disguised lessons in initiative and hard work with clever pirating lore and grand treasure dreams. Girls and boys alike will enjoy this book, which has a cliff-hanger of an ending begging for a sequel."
Winston-Salem Journal:

"Inducted into the knavish crew of the sloop Scurvy Mistress, young Fish finds himself involved both in piecing together baroque clues to the location of a fabulous golden treasure known as the Chain of Chuaca[r] and in protecting the gentlemanly but naive Captain Cobb from brutal mutineers and rival treasure hunters...His pacifism adds an unusual element for stories of this ilk, too."
Kirkus Reviews:

"This page-turner might keep you and your family up late reading."
Meridian Magazine

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Anonymous said...

"Fish" was a great adventure story. I loved the action and the main character. The young boy's views and opinions were very easy to relate to and very appropriate for this age group. Boys especially would grab this book and eat it up. The only negative I could see was that a lot of it seemed like such the typical pirate story that I actually asked myself if I had read this book before.

M. Battista said...

Ahoy, Matey! I love this book! it has so much kid appeal - action, adventure, unusual characters, likable kids, a bit of humor and the promise of sunken treasure. Boys and girls alike will love Fish. The characters offer great insight- "You can't reason with rum" as well as good advice- " One is never too busy to read, young man." I won't even have to talk up this book. The catchy cover will attract a reader as soon as I put it on display.

Picnic Rating: 5

Denair Elementary School
Denair, CA

Catherine said...

"Fish" is a fabulous book. My class really enjoyed Fish's situation aboard the 'Survy Mistress". They related with his need to complete his task of delivering the money to Mr. Swift, but they loved the pirates. Scab was a scary character, but my class had fun deciding what they would do to Scab and why no one should have trusted him.

5 out of 5

Catherine Yezak, Special Ed. teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

Anonymous said...

As an adult reader I had trouble getting into the story, but I my boys will love it. It is difficult to find a book about pirates written for the reluctant reader. This one they will like. The adventure will keep their attention.
I give this book a 4 in my basket.

Kimberli Carrier said...

I loved "Fish" and found it to be quite different from typical pirate stories. The fact that Fish lives among pirates, but continues to hold onto his morals is a wonderful life lesson. He simply refuses to fight because he believes in working things out with words! What a terrific message for young readers. The way this challenge is presented and resolved is not only clever, but offers a interesting story line. I read this book quickly and am now sharing it with my sons. They are loving it! I can't wait to share it with a class. I believe the lessons that can be taught with this book will be amazing and inspiring! I'd love to read about Fish's next adventure!

Picnic Rating: 5

M. Roseberry said...

"Fish" was a character that I really enjoyed following. The adventures that he got himself into allowed me to 'dive' into the book and encouraged me to continue to read. It was a predictable storyline, but this is a book that I could give to an adventurous yet reluctant middle school reader would enjoy. There were a few moments where the story transitioned (mid-chapter) with little time for MY mind to wrap around the movement. Maybe it was just me???
Overall, I would like to give this book, "Fish" a Picnic Basket 4.5 out of 5. I am excited to share it with a few specific students.

Heather Hill said...

"Fish" is a wonderful and unique twist on pirating stories. I enjoyed the book and think it will hold the attention of girls and boys alike with all the action and adventure. Additionally, the characters on the ship would lend themselves to great class discussions after reading the book aloud. Fish himself will be a favorite character among kids because he keeps certain parts of himself, but also changes too. Why does he change in some ways but stay the same in different ways? Great question for kids to ponder, put into words, and reflect upon in their own lives. This book is going into my school library so that it can be read and loved many times over. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

I received my copy of "Fish" a while ago but didn't read it until recently. I wish I had read it earlier. I recommended it to my class of fifth graders and have already had a few students read and enjoy it. It is a great mix of adventure, mystery, and humor. I rate it a 5 out of 5.

5th grade teacher