Waterman’s Boy


Book: Waterman’s Boy

Author: Susan Sharpe 

Jacket Illustrator: Ondre Pettingill

Publisher: Aladdin, republished 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0027823516 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0027823512 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1416964537 Paperback

ISBN-10: 1416964533 Paperback

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: General youth fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Sharpe, SusanWaterman’s Boy (Published in 1990 by Bradbury Press, an affiliate of Macmillan Inc., 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY  10022).  Ten, almost eleven, year old Ben Warren lives with his dad Duke, a “waterman” who fishes for crabs and oysters from his boat the Mary, his mom Mary who runs a bed and breakfast, and older sister Barbara in Marsh Harbor, MD, a small town on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.  His older brother Eddie is away at Eastern Shore Community College.  Ben is going to be in sixth grade, but right now it’s summer.  Unlike his brother, Ben doesn’t want to go to college but aspires to be a waterman on the Bay just like his father. However, he gets little encouragement from Duke, who believes that his way of life is fast disappearing.

     Then Ben and his best friend Matt discover that someone has been dumping oil into the bay.  The two boys help a scientist named David Watchman, who is interested in cleaning up the water for the benefit of animals, plants, and people, by taking steps to discover the identity of those involved, while at the same time risking parental disapproval of people with too much education and of outsiders’ interference in their means of earning a living.  Who’s doing the dumping?   Will they get caught and be stopped?  And does Ben change his mind about his plans?  Author Susan Sharpe has written that she wants the book “to leave a sweet feeling of happiness and optimism; that problems can be solved, that your parents can understand you, that the future can be rosy.”

     In addition to the common euphemism “dang,” Ben’s father uses the “d” word.  I am always disappointed when writers of literature aimed at children seem to feel that they just have to include at least one or two curse words to make a story sound “relevant” or “realistic.”  It’s sad.  Duke Warren also smokes cigars.  Otherwise, the book does a good job of balancing opposing views on current issues such as unemployment and pollution of the environment.  School Library Journal says, “The integration of these problems into the rest of the story is the book’s strength.”

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