Book Review: Nathan and the Stone Crabs

Crawford, 78, is a Cortez, Fla., native and commercial fisherman who has worked in a variety of fisheries through the years. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in English, graduating from the University of Florida with honors. Plus he holds two advanced degrees from Harvard, including a doctorate. And he’s served a full career in public education, retiring as a California district superintendent.

Crawford added “author” to his resume last year. He calls “Nathan and the Stone Crabs” a tribute to a “unique and special way of life in a small historical fishing village on Florida’s West Coast.” It takes place in the fictional fishing town of DeSoto, set near Tampa Bay.

Nathan has come to DeSoto to visit his grandfather. His mom, B.D.’s daughter, grew up there, but prefers the world of fine dining in Los Angeles to what she perceives as a less refined lifestyle in DeSoto. But she sends Nathan to see DeSoto for himself and make up his own mind.

See it Nathan does, with B.D.’s help. He learns plenty about the town, its fishing heritage, and its hardworking people. The teenager goes stone crabbing with B.D. and his first mate, Hands, and learns for himself what it’s like.

Nathan’s interested in medicine, has taken first aid courses and wants to be a doctor, but he also finds the fishing life to his liking. He’ll need to call on all his medical training when Hands becomes seriously injured one trip. Will Nathan be up to the test?

“Nathan and the Stone Crabs,” moves quickly and offers plenty of information about life in the Florida fishing villages, their history, the stone crab fishery and the plight of fishermen impacted by the gillnet ban the state implemented in the mid-1990s. It’s an easy read and a great way to introduce readers of any age to the commercial fishing life. It demonstrates how just like the stone crabs, commercial fishermen can suffer adversity, but they’ll live to fight another day.

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