________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009


Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas.

Cary Fagan. Illustrated by Dušan Petricic.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2009.
128 pp., hardcover, $12.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-895-8.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

***1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Jacob knew what they were thinking: Who has the treasure? Of course he knew. The treasure was in Cindy's pocket. All she had to do was to give it to Crossbones, and he and his dastardly pirates would put away their daggers and swords and sail away on their pirate ship.

Jacob looked over at Cindy. She stood by her mother, staring down at her shoes. She wasn't going to tell the pirates about her treasure! Should he, Jacob Two-Two, do something? Should he tell the pirates? Jacob knew that the treasure must be precious to Cindy if she didn't want to say anything. How would he like it if somebody made him give up something he cared about? Jacob decided not to say anything.

At last, the eldest of the Bubov Brothers spoke. "We have the treasure."

"Yes, we do," said the middle brother.

"Definitely," said the youngest.

"What is it?" asked Crossbones. "Is it gold? Is it silver? Rubies? Diamonds?"

"It's our special no-slip acrobat shoes," replied the eldest brother. "We couldn't perform without them. We'll give them to you."

"I don''t want your old shoes," said Crossbones. "And that isn't treasure. Someone else must have it."


Jacob Two-Two is about to become two plus two plus two plus one. He is so worried this addition to his already unwieldy name that he plans to make his family forget about his upcoming seventh birthday. Soon, however, it becomes clear that he has bigger things to worry about as his father announces that the family is moving to Canada. Once on board the SS Spring-a-Leak, Jacob and his new friend, Cindy, are singled out by the sinister first mate, Mr. Scrounger, and sent down to the engine room. Luckily, they are working for Morgenbesser, a kindly giant who likes checkers and cookies. Jacob and Cindy find out that Mr. Scrounger has a parrot and an eye patch, and they worry about what evil designs he may have on the ship. But before they can take action, the SS Spring-a-Leak is attacked by a pirate ship. Little do the pirates know that the only booty on the ship is Cindy's pet mouse named Treasure.

     The Child Power heroes, Shapiro and O'Toole, otherwise known as Emma and Noah, Jacob's older brother and sister, try to overpower the pirates, but they are quickly captured and marooned on a desert island. Jacob narrowly avoids having to walk the plank, but he is saved when Cindy reveals her Treasure. The pirates finally accept that there is no gold nor jewels on board, but they take Jacob and Cindy away with them to train to be pirates. The intrepid Shapiro and O'Toole come to their rescue, paddling a raft up to the ship and giving Jacob a treasure map. When the pirates discover the map, they follow its directions to a large island where they come upon the Treasure Theater. The pirates are so excited by the show that they agree to give up a life of buccaneering to become pirate performers. Jacob and Cindy are set free, and they continue on to Montreal where Perry Pleaser, the Prime Minister, gives them medals celebrating their courage.

     In this new Jacob Two-Two adventure, the character created by Mordecai Richler reappears as imagined by Cary Fagan. Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas fits well with the earlier books. The goofiness of adults and clever dialogue provide many laughs, and the overall lightness of tone is appropriate for younger readers. This is an adventure story filled with action and light suspense, but without frightening episodes. There are allies as well as villains, and the villains turn out to be more silly than evil: Scrounger has a parrot who will only talk nonsense, and the pirates are at a loss to know where to go to find treasure.

      Jacob Two-Two is, in a sense, just one of a cast of characters, many of them adults, who all have significant parts in the story. However, as the story is told from his point of view, he is always present and remains a central figure. The intentionally overblown supporting characters, from the vaudevillian performers to the immensely vain Captain Sparkletooth, provide lots of opportunity to laugh at the antics of grownups. Grownups are ineffectual in this story: Jacob, Cindy, and Shapiro and O'Toole are the ones who shape the course of events. Morgenbesser is the only adult who takes effective action. He is also the one who is kindest to the children throughout and who takes them seriously. The harm done by adults who dismiss the words of young children is a serious theme of the book and is a message that was also underlined in earlier Jacob Two-Two books.

      Much of the originality of the story comes from the theme of treasure being in the eye of the beholder. Each of the characters has something that is precious to him or her for particular reasons, and it may mean little to someone else. Treasure may also be intangible, like the memories and experience of seeing the show at the Treasure Theater.

      Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas is a highly readable book, with smooth, cinematic prose at an appropriate reading level with some challenging vocabulary. It would work well as a read aloud or for solo reading.

Highly Recommended.

Andrea Galbraith is a librarian, writer, and parent living in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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