For 12-year-old Skiff Beaman, being a kid is especially hard. Since his mother died, Skiff's father has spent most of his time drunk on the living room couch, and Skiff has been forced to be the adult of the family. He's been bailing out his father's unused fishing boat for months now, but when it finally sinks at the dock on the last day of school before summer vacation, he's forced to take drastic action. He'll get the Mary Rose raised and seaworthy and hopefully get his father off the couch, but he'll have to raise some money first. The only way Skiff can achieve this is by doing what generations have always done in Spinney Cove, the little New England town he calls home trapping lobsters. With the help of elderly neighbor Amos Woodell, Skiff sets out to do this, but before long his adult life and his kid life come to crosscurrents, and he has no choice but to try something dangerous in order to save both his boat and his father. Although Amos offers as much sage advice and know-how as he can, it's up to Skiff to find a way to salvage a bad situation when his traps are maliciously de-baited and cut.
Skiff's world is so smoothly described that we quickly fall into the way of life of a small fishing town. The big fish in Spinney Cove is Jack Croft, a former friend of Skiff's dad, and the father of Tyler, Skiff's nemesis. Young readers will relate to the hero's situation when it comes to coping with bullies, and sadly, many will also identify with having an alcoholic parent. Readers will find inspiration in Skiff's desperate gamble to turn his life around (though the dangerous chance he takes isn'trecommended). Full of twists and turns that pit man and nature, Philbrick's newest book holds up well as an homage to Ernest Hemingway's classic, The Old Man and the Sea. Be sure and fish for The Young Man and the Sea at your local bookseller.