Monday, February 20, 2012

Canadian Book Week: Philip Roy's Submarine Outlaw series

I haven't forgotten about Canadian books! I review them regularly for CM Magazine (a very useful reference if you're looking for Canadian children's books), and occasionally the books they send me get me very excited. That's the case with the Submarine Outlaw books. I was first sent River Odyssey, the third book in the series, and I just finished Ghosts of the Pacific, the fourth book, and now I want to get the first two books, because these are great stories! They might be difficult to find; I'm not even sure they're available in the States, but they're worth searching out, particularly if you're looking for books for boys.

The Submarine Outlaw series has an original and appealing central concept: young Alfred pilots his unregistered submarine wherever he likes, with a seagull for a first mate and a dog for a second. He gets into trouble because he can’t resist rescuing people (and animals) and so is always barely evading capture by the authorities, who will take his submarine away from him. Thus Alfred is firmly a good guy and yet still an outlaw—an irresistible combination!

In River Odyssey, the third book of the series, Alfred is given a quest by his spiritual mentor: he needs to find the father who abandoned him as a baby. Unwillingly he puts off his planned journey to the Pacific and instead journeys from Newfoundland up the St Lawrence River to Montreal. Along the way he finds people to rescue and dangers (including police) to evade.

In Ghosts of the Pacific, Alfred sails from Newfoundland through the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. He encounters polar bears and gets trapped in the ice. In the Pacific he gets shot at by a shrimp trawler when he cuts their net to release trapped turtles and dolphins. He rides out a storm, meets a floating circus and sails into a sea of plastic garbage the size of Texas. He visits the Bikini Atoll and dives to see the ships sunk by nuclear testing. Then he ends up on the island of Saipan, where he hides in an underwater cave during a typhoon and discovers the skeletons of Japanese soldiers. Alfred considers an offer to join the circus, but decides he’s not finished sailing alone yet. There will be a sequel!

I think these would be great books for reluctant readers. The language is clear and simple, the plot is full of exciting episodes--and come on: submarines! I usually veer towards fantasy (you may have noticed!), but I found these books completely engaging. Plus I learned stuff!

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