The Young Man and the Sea

by Rodman Philbrick

A mighty struggle between man (or, in this case, boy) and fish—sound familiar?... read more

A mighty struggle between man (or, in this case, boy) and fish—sound familiar? With a nod to Hemingway, author Rodman Philbrick tells Skiff Beaman’s story. Twelve-year-old Skiff’s mother recently died, and his father has sunk into a debilitating depression, seldom stirring from the couch. Skiff can’t get through to his dad, even when their fishing boat—and the source of the family income—sinks at the dock. Skiff tackles the problem himself and, with the help of an elderly neighbor, sets out to earn the cash needed for boat repairs. When a bully sabotages his money-making plans, the lure of a big catch and its quick payoff tempt Skiff to head out to sea solo. The hunt for a giant tuna and the resulting battle between boy and fish stretch credibility, but the scene’s excitement and tension are undeniable. Especially poignant are the internal conversations Skiff holds with his mother, whose imagined voice helps him when he most needs support. Goaded from his grief by his son’s dangerous journey, Skifffather reassumes his role as a parent and the book ends on a hopeful note. (Ages 9–12)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2005

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