Written by Adrianne Madden
December 15, 2011
The Scallop Christmas
By Jane Freeberg, illustrated by Astrid Sheckels
Islandport Press, 2009
Hardcover, 34 pp., $16.95
How often do you come across a Christmas story that has a commercial fishing backdrop? "The Scallop Christmas," does and it will make a nice addition to your family's holiday traditions.
According to author Jane Freeberg, who lives on Maine's Georgetown Island, the book is based on a true story told to her by a friend who lived most of the story. "It rattled around in my brain for 35 years," Freeberg writes, "and when it came to mind, I'd think, 'That's a great story, I ought to write it down.'"
The story she finally penned takes place in small New England fishing village; most of the men there are either fishermen or farmers, save for 10-year-old Marcie's dad, Lucas, the teacher in the town's one-room schoolhouse. One fall an unexpected bounty of scallops fills the town's bay. Lucas grants the local fishermen's request to shut school down for a week so they can take their children scalloping for a week.
The reason? Times are hard and scallop prices are good. But local rules state each fisherman can only sell one bushel of scallop per day for each person on his boat. Hence, the more family members you have on the boat, the better.
Marcie's five-member family goes scalloping, too, heading out on Lucas' old boat, the Pineapple. While the town's more experienced fishermen can use faster methods of harvesting the scallops, Lucas only has an extra-long rake to collect them from the bay bottom.
It's backbreaking, daylong work for Lucas to fill the family's five bushel baskets — especially since he has a trick shoulder that's all too prone to slipping out of joint. The week of scallop harvesting brings unexpected adventure — and eventually a wonderful Christmas morning surprise that Marcie never forgets.
The beautifully illustrated children's book has won Honorable Mention in the Maine Literary Award, and won the Maine Lupine Honor Award for a picture book of outstanding merit. It should be a welcome present for your child to find under the Christmas tree this year.
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