________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 7 . . . . November 27, 1998

cover The Good Companion.

Joan Skogan. Illustrated by Stephen McCallum.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 1998.
32 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 1-55143-134-3.

Subject Headings:
Fishing boats-Juvenile fiction.
Superstition-Juvenile fiction.
Storms-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4

image excerpt:

Down below the engineer cursed his automatic pumps, his hand pumps and all pumps ever made. The deckhands' lips quivered as they crammed themselves into a corner of the wheelhouse beside the captain. The cook sat at the table, his feet braced on the overt urned bench, looking out the tilting galley window into the darkening sky rolling itself down to the hills of grey water which flung foam and strands of feathery seaweed against the glass.
The captain of the Good Companion, a fishing vessel, is extremely respectful of seafaring superstitions. On the first night of a trip, he and his crew rescue a young woman mysteriously abandoned at sea. Reluctantly, he allows her on board, certain that a woman will bring bad fortune to the expedition. In fact, her presence actually seems to bring good fortune - smooth sailing and nets loaded with fish, day after day. Though the crew warms to their unexpected guest, the captain remains opposed to her being on board, and, at the first opportunity, he returns to port, leaving her there. A year later, once again on the first night of a fishing trip, the Good Companion encounters a terrible storm, one which is so violent that the captain thinks he sees the woman, her arms outstretched, and he calls out to her. Her image fades into the mist, and, almost immediately, the vessel rights itself and the sea calms.

      Drawing from her commercial fishing experiences, Skogan breathes life into the story. The language and the flow of the text somehow mimic the gentle rocking motion of the sea and then change cadence as the boat encounters the rough waters of the storm. Though the mystery of the young woman is left up to the reader's imagination, Skogan's text evokes an eerie mood. Even the title of the book can be perceived as a double entendre, referring both to the boat and the woman whose presence, whether real or ghostly, brings good luck.

      McCallum's full-page watercolour illustrations complement the text. The deep grays and blues of the rain, the waves and the mist add an air of mystery. Darker shades are used to depict the angry sea while lighter colours are prevalent in the scenes of the boat in calm waters and in the illustrations depicting the boat's interior. Figures are drawn slightly out of proportion, their stocky builds perhaps inferring the strength and sturdiness of the captain and his crew.

      A well-told tale, with just enough of a mystery to keep readers guessing.


Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School, East St. Paul, Manitoba.

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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364