Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘fish

Did you know there are both good and bad pirates? In Fish by Gregory Mone, when Fish (whose real name is Maurice) is forced to join the crew of The Scurvy Mistress, he doesn’t know one kind of pirate from the other.

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!

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

Anyone like pirates? Fish by Gregory Mone has plenty of them. It also has treasure! If you check back early in the week, I’ll also post some quirky trivia about Mone. After my Wednesday break, I’ll post some interesting information about Fish. I’ll review Fish this weekend.

Gregory Mone is a novelist, magazine writer, science journalist, and speaker. As a magazine writer, he has covered artificial intelligence, robots, physics and biology. All these areas of course involved lots of research. His research has also taken him on multiple adventures such as hiking and surfing in Ireland, along with a couple spectacular ones such as sitting behind the wheel of a flying car and watching brain surgery up close–and thereby overcoming a tendency to faint.

Advice from a “Geek”

One day, Gregory Mone’s research gave him the privilege of interviewing Lance Greathouse, a dental laser repair technician who builds inventive machines in his spare time. For example, Greathouse created “a drive-able, fire-spewing tailgating rig.” Mone wrote about it in a piece for Popular Science, but Mone was also struck by what he called Greathouse’s philosophy. Of course, that kind of stuff isn’t relevant to a science article. Fortunately, one of the luxuries of authors who blog is that they can post those extras on their blog.

My favorite extra that Mone posted is Greathouse’s philosophy on raising kids: “If I could go back and do it over I would totally eliminate the video games. I hate that stuff with a passion. The kids waste so much time on that and they have absolutely nothing to show for that time. I’d rather my kids go out and collect rocks or sticks.”

What do you think? Should kids play video games? Should they not be allowed? Or is there a balance?

I also like this advice on putting down the phone: “When people ask him how he creates so many cool machines in his spare time, Greathouse asks them to hand him their phone. Then he turns it off and puts it away. ‘How can you focus on anything when you’re always looking at your phone all the time?’ he asks.

Just by trying to balance a teaching career with writing aspirations has forced me to ignore doorbells, phone calls, emails…. What are your biggest obstacles to having time for your passions?

Last, I liked what he said about the benefits of building: “When I’m working on something my mind is clear. That’s how I relax. People think I’m nuts because I’m out here hammering on something until one in the morning, but that’s how I relax. Some people fish, some people watch TV, some people build.”

Sometimes to clear my mind, I clean house or work in the yard. How do you clear your mind?


What awards do you deserve?

Over the past year, Fish by Gregory Mone been nominated for The Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. It was selected as a “highly recommended” book by The Boston Authors Club.

The news excited Mone, because “as far as I can recall, the last award I won was either the co-MVP of the Plandome Country Club Swim Team (a long time ago) or the Shelter Rock Elementary School Spelling Bee Champion (an even longer time ago)”. It also made him think that there should be more awards. This is his list and explanation of ones he feels he deserves:

  • Most Forgetful (Some might see this as a negative; I would consider it an honor.)
  • Best Morning Coffee Maker (Probably one of the more important roles in any house. Coffee, and how quickly it acts on the brain after wake up call, affects everyone, from parents down to infants.)
  • Most Likely to Wake Up Early (This is more of a weakness than a strength, but I want an award anyway.)
  • Best Random Storyteller (You need an adventure that features Michael Jackson, Cinderella and mermaids? Give me ten seconds….)
  • Worst Tap Dancer (This should still be an award, even though it’s a “worst,” because bad dancers are incredibly valuable. They make everyone else feel better about themselves.)

If I (Allison) were to make a list, I would include:

  • Most Serious (My poor husband thinks he can’t joke; I take him seriously far too often.)
  • Best Chicken and Potatoes Maker (I made these for my husband on one of his early dates. Now it’s a popular meal request during football season.)
  • Most Likely to Say “Just a Sec” (Does that make you think of Columbo’s line: “Oh, just one more thing.” Anyway, I’ve told my husband “Just A Sec” so often, he thinks it should go on my grave. If I don’t wrap this post up quickly, I’ll have to tell him again tonight.)
  • Best Family Communicator (I put out a monthly newsletter. Is that enough? I could mention the emails, phone calls, visits….)
  • Worst Decision-Maker (Okay, I’m not sure about this award. I can make some pretty big decisions, but I’m also the type who will waffle between two menu items at a restaurant. For that reason, I relate to Wembley on Fraggle Rock.)

What awards would make your list?

You might be familiar with Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, but are you familiar with Fish, Captain Cobb, and Scab? The latter are some of the main characters in a book called Fish by Gregory Mone.

English: Flag of pirate Edward England Polski:...

Image via Wikipedia

Interested in checking out books and/or movies about pirates? You can find a list at the pirate magazine No Quarter Given. Incidentally, it also contains information on you can become a buccaneer. Moreover, it describes ships you can sail to have fun pirate adventures and crews that will help you in that endeavor. Me thinks, my husband and I might have to check them out when we retire. 🙂

What is your favorite pirate book, movie, game, or other adventure?

Pirate Lore

If you mouse over to Gregory Mone’s blog, you’ll also find a wealth of news items (sorted from oldest to newest) about modern-day pirates of another sort:

Here is an excerpt from the most recent: “Somali pirates will strike anything: one-thousand-foot-long oil tankers; tiny sailboats with three people on board; old-fashioned, crescent-sailed Arab dhows; freighters crammed with emergency food; freighters crammed with weapons; a tanker carrying extremely flammable benzene that American authorities worried could be converted into an enormous, floating bomb. The pirates have even attacked navy ships, apparently by mistake.”

Anyone have any other pirate news?

What do bow ties have to do with Fish by Gregory Mone? Well, its main character is not about your usual pirate. Perhaps, this is because Mone abhors violence. On a visit to Holten Richmond Middle School in MA, Mone showed the photo pictured here as proof. The idea for the character of Fish, a boy who loves to swim but hates to fight, actually sprang from Mone’s own experience.  To read the whole story, check out In Defense of Bow Ties.

Intrigued yet? If so, check out the trailer for Fish. Then return on Sunday for my review.

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