CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 5. . . .September 30, 2011
Selby: The Lobster.
Don Downer. Illustrated by Gisele LeBlanc-Turner.
Sydney, NS: Cape Breton University Press, 2011.
36 pp., pbk., $14.95.
American lobster-Juvenile literature.
American lobster-Life cycles-Juvenile literature.
Lobster fishers-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Saeyong Kim.
Today, the sand near Selby's burrow contains a number of rather large clams. Cockles, Jake calls them. The cockles send out a siphon of water and sand Selby's way as he passes. When the tide is out on warm summer days, Madge often walks along this sand flat. She carries a bucket and a digger to dig cockles for dinner.
The sun was beginning to sink low on the horizon when Selby suddenly has a horrible feeling. He is grabbed by a hard and very strong something and lifted clear out of the water. Horror of horrors!! What is this thing? In a split second he is lifted out of the water and held dangling in the warm summer evening air.
Selby the Lobster is an information picture book, one of three written by biologist Don Downer and illustrated by Gisele LeBlanc-Turner – "natural science for young people" as the back cover says. The reader learns of the life of a lobster, including the plankton stage, moulting, food and burrows. As well, the narrative follows the methods and some of the regulations concerning lobster fishing.
What is fun about Selby the Lobster is that all the information comes quite naturally through the course of a story about life both for lobsters and lobster fishers in Ragged Harbour. There aren't any charts or maps, and the illustrations are really illustrations in that they work with the text to tell a better story. They are not diagrams in disguise, with arrows pointing to all the unfamiliar parts of a lobster's anatomy for readers to learn their names. Rather, the interestingly scribbly, colorful drawings are of Selby the lobster and Jake the lobster fisher, and the places they call home: Jake's kitchen and boat, Selby's rock and the sea around it, as well as some larger pictures of the area of Ragged Harbour, itself. The Author and Illustrator information page at the back notes that Gisele LeBlanc-Turner works "...in a variety of media, including oils, acrylics, ink, watercolour and pencil crayon", and while I can't tell what medium is used here (it looks to be watercolor, and ink or colored pencil) the pictures are engaging. The text doesn't read like a dressed-up list of facts, either. Although the book explains the life of a lobster from larva through reproduction to old age, many other animals around Selby are given attention, and the language is not dry: "The starfish seem pink with the exertion. They stumble over empty blue mussel shells...." (p. 3)
Another important part of Selby the Lobster is the conflict that takes place between Selby and Jake as Jake tries to catch Selby and Selby manages to escape, twice. As time passes, Jake turns from lobster fishing to tourism as a business, and his relationship with Selby changes accordingly.
It would have been helpful, as an information book, to have a glossary and some extra information on the subject matter, lobsters and lobster fishing, and perhaps also on ecotourism, but, as the reading level is towards slightly older readers who are capable of looking things up on their own, this may not be strictly necessary. Readers may note that, at some points, the writing leans slightly towards anthropomorphism, such as when Selby moults for the first time and is said to have been scared.
Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.
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