This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 17.5
Lower the Trap
On the dust-jacket of Lower the Trap, we read that it is “the first book in the Lobster Chronicles, a trilogy about how life changes for three boys in a small coastal town when a giant lobster is caught in a trap.” What is most intriguing for the adult reader here is how the author will sustain interest in this seemingly small incident over three entire books, especially if—as is suggested earlier in the blurb—“the right thing would be to set the lobster free.” The description does not give the skeptical reader much hope, but this skeptical reader was surprised on every count.
Jessica Scott Kerrin has managed to take the smallest incidents of life in a Maritime village and give them an importance that young readers will not only understand, but identify with. Her child protagonists are carefully and artfully constructed. Their language, thoughts, and actions are simple and straightforward, both reflecting primary school children’s more simple modes of expression and allowing the young reader access to their thought and feelings through simple language. At the same time, the narration of the story includes sophisticated vocabulary that will ask young readers to stretch their knowledge: words such as “reverberation” (12), “behemoth” (21), “imperative” (62), “manically” (71), and “crustacean” (79). That she also includes local-knowledge vocabulary such as “mummichogs” (9) and “shoal” (75) adds to the depth of the setting, either as familiar or exotic, depending upon the reader.
The plot is equally simple and effective. There is the requisite conflict between the cannery owner who does not know or understand the community, or care to, and the fishermen who toil daily to survive. This conflict extends to the cannery owner’s son, Norris, and our protagonist, Graeme. When Graeme’s father traps the biggest lobster the town has seen in 50 years, the mystery of its history and its fate is tied up in a more straightforward mystery that Norris has tricked Graeme into helping him solve: who destroyed the teacher’s prize cactus. The two plots coalesce in the end, with Graeme learning a lesson in trust—of both his friends and his own instincts. More than this simple and necessary lesson, though, Graeme discovers that the despised Norris might share some of the integrity and community spirit that connects Graeme with his other friends. Even more than the ultimate fate of the lobster, this discovery provides ample scope for further stories of Graeme and his close-knit community.