CM . . . . Volume XX Number 33 . . . . April 25, 2014
Arty Brown is a 10-year-old boy who is small in size, but dreams big. The Bluenose, built in Arty's home town of Lunenburg, is preparing for her maiden voyage, and Arty can't imagine the ship leaving without him on it. With Arty's small embellishing of his age (10 and 16 aren't that different!) and explaining he had no parents, which was the truth, a ship hand agrees to Arty's helping out on the Bluenose.
Brimming with excitement, Arty runs to tell his friend, Big Sal, that he was leaving on the Bluenose. It takes some explaining to convince Big Sal that this isn't just one of Arty's tall tales, but she comes to believe him and offers some clothing her grandfather, a fisherman, used when he was a fisherman. Although oversized, the warm clothing is very welcome, as is the grandfather's journal Big Sal gives Arty to record his adventure.
The work is hard, and crew members are not always friendly. When Arty is told to stay alone on deck and blow the foghorn until all the dories return, he does so without complaint despite the cold, damp weather. Hours pass before the final dory returns, and Arty is thanked for his good work by many, but one crew member, Toby, takes the opportunity to tease Arty by stealing the journal Big Sal had given him.
Perhaps it's the fact that, as a baby, Arty was the lone survivor of a shipwreck and left without any family that makes him a natural on the Bluenose. On a dark night, Arty senses what the others don't: a ship coming straight at them with no acknowledgment of the Bluenose's being there. Everyone must abandon ship, but Arty finds Toby, the same boy who took his journal, hiding and too scared to make the jump. Arty drags Toby, a young sailor who is terrified of water, to a dingy, and the Bluenose narrowly avoids getting hit by the oncoming boat. Toby is worried Arty will tell others he was scared, but Arty is kind and tells the others Toby was trying to save the ship's dog which everyone else had forgotten about. This act of kindness toward Toby is enough to soften his hard exterior. When Arty tells Toby that he can't read or write, Toby offers to teach him and does not make fun of him the way the old Toby would have done. From beginning to end, the book demonstrates through many small acts that one good turn deserves another.
Bluenose Adventure is a wonderful story that shows how a small act of kindness can make a big difference: a sailor gives Arty a chance despite his age; Big Sal gives Arty what she can although she does not have much for herself; because Arty is on the Bluenose he plays an important role in saving the lives of other sailors, including Toby who had been cruel toward him in the past; Toby reciprocates Arty's kindness by offering to help him learn to read and write.
Eric Orchard's illustrations complement the story beautifully and make the experience of being on the Bluenose come to life. Jacqueline Halsey does a magnificent job in capturing the atmosphere and character of Lunenburg right down to the regional accent which may take a little getting used to.
Crystal Sutherland is a born and bred Bluenoser and librarian in Halifax, NS.
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