“'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.