I just had my book talk with the fourth grader who is reading The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick. I think I said Freak the Mighty in a previous entry, but that was wrong. Freak is the next one I am reading by this author, because the teacher said it was even better. Young Man is the one to discuss with the fourth grader. He’s a quiet kid, shy and a bit tentative. He had some great observations on the book though. He asked me what a “plane” was (woodworking tool used in repairing the fishing boat). He predicted that the harpoon Skiffy saw hanging on the wall in the old man’s workroom that was his father’s was going to be used by Skiffy to catch the big fish. He wondered a bit at the antagonistic relationship between Skiffy and Tyler, the rich kid. He made a connection to the times his grandpa in Florida takes him fishing and teaches him about it. He has never been on the ocean in a fishing boat, and neither have I.
I loved this book! It is so exciting and sweet and real. The boy’s voice is authentic. His struggles, his courage, his fear and discouragement and his triumph are invigorating and touching. It brought back all the times I have spent “messing about in boats”, as ratty puts it in Wind in the Willows. I was fascinated to learn so much about tuna. All the sandwiches I have made and munched, and never knew how majestic and powerful tuna are in their element. It also brought to mind Life of Pi, another 12 year old boy on a high sea adventure. Pi is written on a deeper, more complex level, hence more sophisticated and thought-provoking.
In Young Man I kept thinking I can’t believe he is going to pull this off, but of course he just about kills himself and does it, and it is totally believable. I love his mom’s rules too. I spent my driving time this morning trying to decide what my “Mom’s Rules” would be, and wondering if my sons would be able to bring them to mind as a guide if and when they got into a life or death struggle. Would my rules do anything to keep them alive and victorious, the way Skiffy’s mom’s rules helped him?
Skiffy’s mom’s rules are: 1. Think smart 2. Speak true 3. Never give up!
My rules are: 1. Love 2. Forgive 3. Rejoice.
What would your rules be?