Quill and Quire

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Fishing with Gubby

by Gary Kent; Kim La Fave, illus.

The skill and knowledge of a lifetime spent fishing off Canada’s West Coast lies behind many of the decisions Gubby makes in this down-to-earth account of a summer on a commercial fishing troller.

Somewhere between a picture book and a graphic novel, Fishing with Gubby uses cartoon-like drawings to tell the story of Gubby’s journey up the Strait of Georgia to the fishing grounds off the north and west coasts of Vancouver Island. Accompanied by his cat and first mate, Puss, the resourceful Gubby steers his small boat through treacherous seas, storms, fog, and a collision with a huge basking shark that breaks one of the ship’s poles. Because the book is set sometime in the past, Gubby does manage to reel in lots of fish and return home, not wealthy, but satisfied with his labours.

Judging from the hand-drawn map at the end of the book, Gubby lives on the Sechelt Peninsula, which is also home to author Gary Kent and illustrator Kim La Fave. And in fact, Kent bases Gubby’s adventures on his own nine years as a commercial fisherman, and his matter-of-fact, gently humorous account of life on the water is full of realistic detail.

La Fave’s illustrations, rendered in the muted colours of a rainy coastline, give an amusing sense of the personalities of the fishermen, as well as the structure of the boat and many aspects of life at sea. Varied perspectives and frame sizes enliven the pages. One illustration of a scary encounter in the fog is unnecessarily confusing, and Cape Scott is misplaced on the map, but these are small problems in what is overall an ­engaging introduction to a fascinating way of life.