CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 36 . . . . May 18, 2012
Lower the Trap. (The Lobster Chronicles #1).
Jessica Scott Kerrin. Illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2012.
125 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
Hunkered down on the floorboards at his dad’s feet was an absolutely gargantuan lobster. It was practically the size of Fetch, and its antennae, which looked like bicycle spokes, were swinging zigzags in the sea breeze.
“You caught that?!” Graeme asked above the rising din.
“You bet!” said his dad, a proud grin on his face. “Dexter had to go to the dentist today, but I took a run to check the lines anyway. This one got its claw caught trying to grab an easy dinner from one of the traps. Come aboard and have a closer look.”
Graeme scrambled down the wharf’s ladder and hopped onto the boat. He made his way to the stern.
“Geez Louise!” exclaimed Graeme, getting down on one knee for closer inspection, but being careful not to get too close. “Look at the size of those claws!”
Out of the water, the giant lobster could barely move under its massive weight, but its armored claws, too big for elastic bands, were bound by electrical tape, just to be safe.
The behemoth stared at Graeme with its black-bead eyes, an incredible specimen indeed!
Graeme Swinimer is a future marine biologist living in the small pond of Lower Narrow Spit. He has documented and analysed every part of his small fishing community and is eager to move on to deeper waters, but when his father catches a massive lobster unexpectedly, Graeme finds out that he may not know everything about the waters surrounding his home.
Graeme’s dad decides to put his prize catch up for auction at the annual lobster festival and promises Graeme a trip to the Big Fish Aquarium with the prize money they will win if it receives the highest bid. From here, things get complicated.
When Norris, the spoiled son of the cannery owner, promises to convince his dad to buy the lobster at the auction, Graeme knows the offer comes at a price – find the person who took Ms. Penfield’s prized cactus while under Norris’ care. Usually Graeme would like to use his scientific principles to catch the culprit, but Norris is not liked by any kid in town and helping him “would be like pulling up empty lobster traps during the height of the season: a disappointing effort, and unrewarding besides.” The pull of The Big Fish Aquarium tips the scales in Norris’ favour, however, and Graeme reluctantly takes the case.
At this point, the plot splits. While readers follows Graeme in his case of the missing cactus, the author, Jessica Scott Kerrin, muddies the plot by introducing many of the colourful characters of this maritime town and their backstories. For example, when Graeme learns that his monster lobster may be the massive McDermit lobster that was captured over 25 years earlier, he finds himself in a moral dilemma: should his lobster be released to swim another day? Should he try to find out if it is the same lobster, or is it better to stay in the dark? Then there is his sister Lynnette who keeps killing his fish by feeding them her sandwiches.
How will all these diverse pieces come together?
The problem is they don’t. Kerrin has many interesting elements, including great description, an interesting setting, and a diverse set of characters. Lower the Trap is also a quick and easy read and a perfect read aloud. Unfortunately, the reader is left hanging as Kerrin chooses not to wrap up the loose ends satisfactorily.
An interesting twist is that Lower the Trap is the first installment of “The Lobster Chronicles” trilogy in which Kerrin endeavors to tell the same story from the point of view of a different character. It is possible that the missing pieces will all be revealed and tidied up in the next instalments. I am willing to give this interesting tale the benefit of the doubt and see what is caught in the next instalment.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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