Friday, September 12, 2014

Seabird, by Holling Clancy Holling

Seabird begins by introducing us to Ezra, a fourteen-year-old Ship's Boy on his first sailing trip from New Bedford.  While scouting through dense fog, he sees a white bird in the mist.  Its unique flight pattern alerts him to the presence of an iceberg in the waters ahead, and he's able to warn the crew in time to save the ship.

Not long afterward, the crew encounters an Arctic native who trades in skins and furs.  Ezra trades with him for two walrus tusks, and sets about carving a replica of the bird that saved the ship.  He adds a few gems as features, and the seabird becomes a good luck token of sorts.  From that moment onward, it is Ezra's constant companion as he rises through the ranks and eventually becomes the captain of his own ship.

Seabird is next passed on to Ezra's son, and then in turn his grandson, each becoming the engineer and captain of a progressively more modern mode of transportation as his father's vessel becomes obsolete.

The book does a great job making you familiar with Ezra as he grows and learns, although less time is spent on his son and grandson.  Each chapter is short, just one page, with a full-page color illustration facing it.  What I especially liked was that in the margins of the text page, anything that would need a more detailed or technical sketch is illustrated in black-and-white.  For example, how Seabird was assembled, the different features of a whaling boat, or the formation of a tropical island.  I really enjoyed this slim volume from the author of Paddle-To-the-Sea.

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