This gripping adventure-at-sea skillfully blends a suspenseful survival story, a heart-wrenching boy-and-his-dog tale and the sensitive treatment of a youngster coming to terms with the death of a family member.
When twelve-year-old Sam overhears his parents talking about their elderly and infirm Labrador retriever, Pogo, he’s convinced they plan to have the dog put down. To save Pogo, Sam sets sail with the dog in a fourteen foot boat for an island off the coast of Maine. The elements conspire against them as they move from one danger to another: fog, near decapitation by a tugboat cable, a storm at sea, a lurking shark and the loss of their boat. Sam summons courage and ingenuity to meet each new challenge, helped along the way by Pogo's loyalty, a one-eyed cormorant, a retired ornithologist, and a lifetime of good nautical advice from his older brother. As he battles nature's fury, Sam is finally able to come to terms with what he has truly been running from: his brother's death in Afghanistan.
** Starred Review **
Determined to save Pogo, his elderly Labrador retriever, from being put down, 12-year-old Sam sets sail on his catboat for an island just off the coast of Maine. A violent storm chases them across the water, landing them on an unfamiliar beach. There, the two take shelter in a shed where they meet Magnus, a retired ornithologist, and his arctic tern, Fuego. Over supper, Magnus shares his wisdom about life and death, and Sam realizes his selfishness and decides to return home. But the sea has other plans. Blinded by impenetrable fog, driven by unpredictable tides, and hunted by a terrifying shark, Sam and Pogo are quickly lost. They finally make their way to a wrecked ship, where they survive on rainwater and the charity of a one-eyed cormorant. There, Sam confronts not only Pogo’s fate, but his brother’s death in Afghanistan. Short chapters filled with nonstop action will keep the pages turning. While deep questions about love, sacrifice, and death offer no easy answers, Sam's struggle is both authentic and heart-wrenching. Macfarlane’s sure hand creates accurate nautical details, a cast of fascinating human and animal characters, and the timeless struggle between man and nature, all attuned to middle-grade sensibilities with no hint of patronization. An exciting adventure with true depth. (Fiction. 8-12)