CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 18. . . .January 14, 2011.
Fishing with Gubby.
Gary Kent. Illustrated by Kim La Fave.
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2010.
48 pp., hardcover, 2010.
Pacific Coast (B.C.)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Ellen Heaney.
We used to call these comic books, and they featured superheroes like Batman or comic characters like Donald Duck. Now they are on library shelves as graphic novels, and are considered legitimate literature for children and teens. Fishing with Gubby is a worthy contribution to the genre, structured as it is as non-fiction in a story’s wrappings.
Fishing with Gubby is a gentle book based on the real life of a west coast salmon fisherman. In the course of the story about one spring in Gubby’s life, we see a cross section of his boat and all its fittings, get a British Columbia geography lesson and learn about the economics of depending on the sockeye run for a living.
Gubby lives in an unnamed west coast village, and the book opens with him readying for the upcoming season. Through his conversations with other fishers and his wife Millie, we find out what life is like here. Gubby makes a list, buys supplies and, in a series of panels, walks us through the process of getting his boat ready to go out on the waters.
Gubby makes sure that his trusty old radio telephone still works. He likes to phone Millie and his fishing pals and if the Flounder’s engine quits he will need to call for help.
A combination of speech balloons and information boxes provide the text. For example, one box says:
Fishboats come in many sizes. The Skookumchuk is 48 feet (16 metres) long and has four crew members. It has a large freezer to keep fish from spoiling and can stay out on the fishing grounds for a long time. The Flounder’s [Gubby’s boat’s] fish are kept cool with ice and last only a few days before Gubby must bring them into the harbor.
What a painless way to find out about the difference between larger and smaller fishing boats, especially when it is at the top of a page showing the Flounder sandwiched between two larger vessels, followed by speech balloons showing Gubby saying
“Mind if I tie up here?” to the skipper of the Skookumchuk, who replies
“No problem, come on board, I just put the coffee pot on.”
Later in the book, Gubby meets up with his young nephew, Cameron, who asks if he can go along to Port Hardy on the boat. After they set out, this exchange occurs:
“Can I fish too, Uncle Gub”
“You betcha. Soon having you catch the biggest fish you ever saw.”
and a series of humourous ‘catches’ ensues, ending with the hooking of a steelhead trout, which is a keeper. But then they sit down to a dinner of wieners and beans! At the end of the day, Cameron avows that he, too, is going to be a fisherman when he grows up.
The author, Gary Kent, has contributed his 10 years of experience in commercial fishing, and many more as a west coast resident, to capture what may be a vanishing way of life for those who earned a living from the sea as individuals rather than as employees of larger, less personal operations.
La Fave has chosen a muted palette of grays and yellows which evoke a landscape of water and sky during a sometimes cool, often rainy Pacific spring.
Fishing with Gubby, a comfortable and informative book, deserves a place on school and public library shelves.
Ellen Heaney is Head, Children’s Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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