Allison's Book Bag

Gaddy’s Story by Sally Goddard

Posted on: July 17, 2013

GaddyStoryThe bulk of the Newfoundland picture books which I own are educational. Gaddy’s Story by Sally Goddard is no exception. It’s about the unusual topic of the first weeks in the life of an Atlantic cod. The problem with educational books is that they can fail to be interesting or entertaining. While I actually did enjoy Gaddy’s Story, it does have some problems.

Let’s talk about those problems. The first is the illustrations, which are are black and white line drawings. In reality, the eggs of the Atlantic cod are colored cream, pale green or yellowish red. Moreover, codfish themselves have two distinct color phases: gray-green and reddish brown. Plenty of opportunity for color! While black and white is more economical, and is fine for an older audience, young children want and deserve vibrant color. The second problem is the less-than-inviting text. In reality, the word count isn’t substantially longer than Atlantic Puffin and similar books. Nor is there much difference in the difficulty of the words. Atlantic Puffin employs words such as “fisherman”, “wharf”, “parrot”,  “colorful”, and “unforgettable”. Gaddy’s Story uses words such as “photograph”, “journey”, “bottom”, and “current”. The problem with the text is that it is compressed within air bubbles, and so appears denser, of greater quantity, and so is more challenging to read.

Given these drawbacks, why did I enjoy Gaddy’s Story? First, there’s the cute title! Then there’s the likable main character. Gaddy shows off a photograph of himself on his birthday, feels proud to grow bigger than his brother and sister, and looks forward to being able to catch food all by himself. My favorite are the photographs of a codfish, from its start as an egg, to the division of its cells, to the growth of real features such as a head, body, and tail. Each new development, from color cells that give codfish their color to the growth of other features such as their fins, is shown. What a fascinating way to educate readers about the first weeks in the life of an Atlantic cod. Last, there is the Additional Notes page, a feature which seems prevalent in Newfoundland picture books. This page describes the spawning season and provides more information about the growth of codfish eggs. When it comes to educational content, Gaddy’s Story equals other Newfoundland picture book offerings.

Yet I think it had more potential. Adding color to the line drawings would make for a nice contrast with the photos, which should remain in black and white because they depict sightings from under a microscope. While I appreciated the idea of placing text in water bubbles, more playfulness is needed to liven up the dense text. Finally, even if this is basically an educational story, more conflict could drive the narrative. In the Additional Notes, I learned that most codfish eggs perish, which is why the female produces so many of them. Why not add a little danger to Gaddy’s life, so that we’re driven to turn the page by the need to know if Gaddy will survive? If these little tweaks were in place, Gaddy’s Story would move from an average to high rating from me.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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