Showing posts with label Philip Roy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philip Roy. Show all posts

July 11, 2017

Stealth of the Ninja

Written by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-490-0
225 pp.
Ages 10+
March 2017

When Alfred Pynsent set out in his twenty-foot, diesel-electric submarine three years ago, he was an explorer. He's navigated the Maritimes near his home in Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence River, the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, South Africa, India and saw more in a few short years, both travel-wise and experientially, than most people do in their whole lives.  And he's just on the cusp of turning seventeen.  But, Al has turned from explorer to eco-warrior having seen the desecration of the oceans first hand.
I know that the sea is dying.  I mean, the water will always be there, of course, but the life in it won't.  And even though there are still days when whales breach in front of my sub, and dolphins race playfully past, and flying fish soar over my head with the funny whispering of their fins, there are much longer stretches  when I see nothing on the water but garbage and torn nets with rotting sea animals, as if the sea were nothing but one humongous human garbage patch. (pg. 2)
Heading to Japan, Al is apprehensive, as months earlier (Eco Warrior, 2015) he had helped the Sea Shepherd Society prevent a tanker from refuelling Japanese whaling ships and he was accused of sabotaging a Japanese tanker in Australia (he didn't).  But, when he discovers an old barnacle-laden freighter, seemingly abandoned, six hundred miles southeast of Japan, it's the beginning of a new adventure for Al that has him learning the ways of ninjutsu, being tossed around in his sub by a tsunami, robbing a new acquaintance's home, and saving a life.

Aboard the rusty freighter, Alfred meets Sensei, a 100-year-old Japanese man, a ninja, who has made the ship his home, growing a garden and collecting the plastic detritus of the oceans within the holds.
His face was gentle, kind and wise.  It was cut with laugh wrinkles, which meant he had probably spent most of his life laughing.  And yet there was something about him that was sad, as if he carried happiness on the outside, but sadness on the inside. (pg. 11)
Sensei teaches Alfred the ways of the ninja– jumping, stealth, stick fighting–and instills in him the disciplines of meditation and exercise, though the perseverance and determination Alfred demonstrates are all his.  When they witness a tsunami encroaching, Alfred and his canine first-mate, Hollie, seek the shelter of the sub but cannot convince Sensei to join them.  Except for a few cuts and bumps on the sub explorers, the submarine survives but the old freighter has flipped and is sitting between 130 and 140 feet below the surface.  Alfred is convinced the plastics have buoyed the ship and that Sensei is still alive.  Heading to the port of Choshi for help, Alfred finds the streets almost deserted because, he soon learns, of the tsunami's impact, most notably on the Fukushima nuclear reactor.  How will he get the help he needs to save Sensei without putting his own life in jeopardy, without getting caught by the authorities looking for him, and without breaking an agreement he made with Ziegfried, his friend and engineer of the submarine?

Stealth of the Ninja is the eighth book (!) in the Submarine Outlaw series and it is as riveting and fresh as any book in the series.  Still amazing is that, although I encourage you to read the whole series because it is so engrossing, Stealth of the Ninja and all its predecessors can stand alone as adventure novels, rife with action and extraordinary characters.  And those characters are truly extraordinary.  From Alfred and his first-mates Hollie and Seaweed to Sensei (whose name we never learn or even need to know) and the Japanese men Yoshi and Hitoshi whom he meets, the characters are so real that I could imagine finding photos of them online and recognizing them instantly.  Moreover, Philip Roy always bathes his stories in such distinctive settings that they are virtual characters.  From the submarine and Sensei's ship to the ocean and the streets of Choshi and Okinawa, Philip Roy creates worlds to which readers can travel in their minds to experience Alfred's  ventures and vicariously face dangers beyond the norm.  Still, though they are wonderful adventure stories, Philip Roy has much to tell us about the oceans and the world and the impact we have on them.  Alfred may seem disheartened at times–though he finds some hope at the conclusion of Stealth of the Ninja–but I think Alfred himself is a source of hope that there are amazing young people out there who care about this world and, recognizing its problems, see themselves as part of the solution. They may not all do it as stealthily as Sensei and Alfred but there's still hope that it's getting done.  By telling the stories of the Submarine Outlaw, Philip Roy gives us all hope as well.

Submarine Outlaw series by Philip Roy

October 28, 2016

Mouse Vacation

by Philip Roy
Illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-479-6
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
October 2016

Compromise is tough enough between humans.  Imagine trying to compromise with an adorable mouse who has great imagination and wanderlust but no sense of distance or costs.  Happy the Pocket Mouse has decided the solution to a case of the boredom blues is for him and his human, John, to go some where.

For John, though, going somewhere usually means someplace close to home, like the store or the park.  But Happy has other ideas, and he has lots of them.  So, John recommends that they each make a list of places they’d like to go.  John is thinking the woods and the river, but Happy’s thinking the Taj Mahal and New Zealand.

Finally John introduces the idea of compromise, a meeting in the middle, which Happy jumps on, proposing meeting in Egypt, or Paris or even New York City, all of which John nixes based on cost.  John’s suggestion about an overnight bus ride to the nearest city to see the Tall Ships finally grabs Happy’s attention, especially John’s description of them as “ghosts from the past” (pg. 23).  Still, finally settling down for the night, the excited little mouse checks with John about one potential stop on the way home!
From Mouse Vacation 
by Philip Roy, illus. by Andrea Torrey Balsara
I’ve reviewed every Happy the Pocket Mouse story that Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara have created: Mouse Tales (Ronsdale, 2014); Jellybean Mouse (Ronsdale, 2014); and Mouse Pet (Ronsdale, 2015).  The foundation of each picture book is the endearing relationship between John and Happy.  John is like the laid-back best friend/dad who radiates subtle wisdom and empathy while Happy is this adorable, adorable innocent whose heart is filled with love and mind brims with imagination.  (I love the sweetness of his response to John’s suggestions: “That’s okay, John, we’ll just go somewhere else”; pg. 5) By having John and Happy working out what it means to take a vacation and finding a way to compromise, Philip Roy has again produced a charming life lesson in a story book.  And Andrea Torrey Balsara flawlessly brings the story to visual completion, ensuring John looks like the man who is wise and caring and Happy is effusive with sweetness and virtue.  But, this time, Philip Roy’s story allows Andrea Torrey Balsara to create wild backgrounds for Happy: on a cow at the Taj Mahal, roasting a marshmallow over a candle while camping, riding a camel in Egypt, or sporting an “I ❤︎ NY” T-shirt.  Still, the magic is in the collaboration, between the text and illustration and between John and Happy.  That's what makes the story, and Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara have done it again, blending the two into a story of adventure for the mind, the heart and the soul.

From Mouse Vacation 
by Philip Roy, illus. by Andrea Torrey Balsara

December 07, 2015

Mouse Pet

by Philip Roy
Illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
978-1-5530-443-7
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2015

Happy the Pocket Mouse, introduced in Mouse Tales (2014) and revisited in Jellybean Mouse (2014), is back in his third adventure and this time he wants to share his happiness with a pet that he and his human John could take for walks and pat.

John listens to the little mouse’s wish and all the fun Happy is sure will be theirs but helps him to understand the significant responsibilities required of pet care.  In fact, Happy decides they should get a goat–even naming it Lola–and has an answer to every objection John makes. Fortunately, and with much affection, John suggests an alternative and one that makes everyone happy!

Happy the Pocket Mouse has a heart full of love and he shares it so completely with John that it only makes sense that he extend that love to another and maybe even another.  The dialogue that Philip Roy has created between Happy and John is so endearing and honest that the reader will feel privileged to eavesdrop on their affection and tender conversation.  With so much caring and compassion, you know that the resolution to their pet discussion will be a sweet one.


The text is so appealing and yet concise and emotive, and the illustrations by Andrea Torrey Balsara are just as charming.  It’s like drinking hot cocoa and eating sweet treats.  The anticipation is just as wonderful as the consumption and you’re left with a warm feeling of goodness and sweetness and look forward to another helping soon enough.

September 26, 2015

Eco Warrior

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-347-8
200 pp.
Ages 10+
March, 2015

If readers were ever trepidatious during Alfred’s world-wide adventures in the first six books in Philip Roy’s Submarine Outlaw series, nothing will match the opening scenes of Eco Warrior. In all Alfred’s zealousness for safety and for anticipating all possible outcomes, he could never foresee being set adrift in the ocean, watching the sub still runnng and pulling away from him.  It’s a shocking beginning but brings Alfred to a new appreciation for all he has.

Not surprising that the sixteen-year-old, already on a quest to become an environmentalist, is overhwlemed by the pessimism of an elderly sailor, Margaret, who believes “You can’t save the oceans now.  Nobody can.  It’s too late.” (pg. 30), though she is still impressed by his hope.  That hope takes him to Australia where he meets a passionate barrister who’d fought, unsuccessfully, to prevent a tanker from heading illegally into the Southern Ocean to refuel Japanese whaling ships that actually claim to be doing research!  That innocent conversation has Alfred suspected of sabotaging that tanker, and an outlaw again.

As he evades authorities in Australia and then Tasmania, Alfred becomes enmeshed in the anti-whaling activities of the Sea Shepherd Society, and accepting risks that he normally would not.  And between being swayed repeatedly by a persuasive environmentalist-inventor named Merwin, stalking and then colliding with a tanker, enjoying the company of a mother blue whale and her baby, and witnessing illegal activities asssociated with whaling, Alfred’s experiences in the Southern Ocean are more than plentiful.

It’s exciting to travel alongside Alfred, Hollie and Seaweed in the sub, and to visit continents and oceans worldwide.  Best is that Philip Roy is able to embed the reader in those adventures and onto the sub so easily.  As he has consistently done in all his Submarine Outlaw books, Philip Roy simply tells a story that includes making the setting more than just the time and place.  It is an integral character in the story, creating plotlines that are more than just the filler of many books.  While books can often take readers to new worlds that they could never imagine, Philip Roy takes those same readers to worldly situations and places they might someday experience but get to enjoy safely from within the pages of his books.  Some of those situations are truly harrowing, like Alfred’s near-death dumping into the ocean or the altercations of environmentalists with the illegal whalers and co-conspirators.  Luckily, young readers can immerse themselves in these same scenarios without tragedy and even face them as Alfred does, with the uncertainty of youth  but the wisdom of a seasoned traveller.  An extraordinary feat for Eco Warrior, a book of a mere 200 pages but a captivatingly deep one just the same.

November 22, 2014

Jellybean Mouse

by Philip Roy
Illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-344-7
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
September, 2014

I fell in love with Happy the Pocket Mouse when he first appeared in Philip Roy's Mouse Tales (Ronsdale, 2014) and I continue to delight in the tender-hearted relationship between this quirky-whiskered and curious mouse and his housemate, John.

In Jellybean Mouse, Happy is seriously bored but the only exciting adventure on their agenda that day is a trip to the laundromat to wash clothes i.e., not very exciting at all. Happy goes along with John but sees the potential for excitement all along the way: at the bowling alley, the skating rink, and the grocery store.  But, of course, John keeps them on course, regardless of Happy's relentless queries.

Ah, but the laundromat offers a wonderful new option: a jellybean machine.  And though Happy must deal with a few obstacles, his determination is interminable.  He's a curious child who asks, wonders, listens, and ponders, and looks for a way to get what he wants without being selfish or breaking the rules.  Happy's innocence and positive attitude provide him with the hope to find something good in just about anything, and Philip Roy's words share that unpretentiousness superbly.  Honestly, Happy is that precious.

Jellybean Mouse is the simple story of a guardian and his ward, albeit a man and a mouse, and the pure, uncomplicated life they lead, finding joy in the simple pleasures.  Philip Roy gives John and Happy the perfect compassionate relationship to which most of us could only aspire.  And Andrea Torrey Balsara continues to provide the only illustrations that could epitomize John and Happy: the calm, steadfastness of John and the thoughtful, inquisitive Happy.  I don't know whether it's her palette of colours (Happy has a lovely mauve hue to his fur) or the straggly nature of her lines, as in Happy's whiskers, or the softness of John's eyewear and Happy's roundish belly and massive, interested eyes.  All I know is that, courtesy of Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara, Happy is now as firmly entrenched in my heart as he wanted to be in that jellybean machine.

August 25, 2014

Me & Mr. Bell

by Philip Roy
Cape Breton University Press
978-1-927492-55-0 (pb)
978-1-927492-57-4 (eBook)
140 pp.
Ages 9-13
2013

For Alexander Graham Bell, his vacation home at Baddeck, Cape Breton is his retreat and inspiration for his many ideas.  For the residents of Baddeck in 1908, Bell is the smartest man in the world and worthy of their awe and respect for his privacy and that of his family. Not surprising that everyone regularly shows up to welcome the family when they return and to witness any demonstrations the great man chooses to share publicly. Sadly, ten-year-old Eddie MacDonald who still cannot read or write bungles a message about the Bells’ return time and angers his father so much that the man deems Eddie only good enough to be a farmer and nothing else.  Chastened, Eddie accepts himself as the “learning cripple” his family and teacher believe him to be, even introducing himself as “Nobody” when he accidentally meets the famous Alexander Graham Bell.

Though no one believes that the boy has met the great man, Eddie begins to see Bell more regularly, even being invited to Bell’s home, meeting Helen Keller, and receiving mail from the man when away.  With a few revelations and much determination, Eddie learns to see himself and others in a new light, courtesy of his friendship with the elusive inventor.

In a straightforward but rich story, author Philip Roy intertwines the lives of a brilliant innovator with an unassuming boy, emphasizing their common bonds and the opportunities that can be lost when judgements override all else.

For teachers who are always looking for great historical fiction, especially for the middle grades, I would enthusiastically recommend Me & Mr. Bell.  By integrating information about a great scientist and Helen Keller (there's biographic tie-ins here) with the history of flight (another curriculum topic), simple machines and innovation, the geography of Nova Scotia, and character education (determination, perseverance and imagination), Me & Mr. Bell has it all, and at an appropriate reading level.  And it's youngCanLit which we should be supporting in all our book choices.  Perfect package for everyone!

March 15, 2014

Mouse Tales

by Philip Roy
Art by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-262-4
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
February, 2014

Happy the Pocket Mouse, the star of Philip Roy's new picture book series from Ronsdale Press, doesn't seem very happy when he can't sleep and insists that he would fall asleep very quickly if John, his human friend, would just tell him a bedtime story.  With the love of a parent or caregiver, John awakens (okay, Happy does have to open his eyelid) and considers the best story to tell, without frightening Happy.  He starts with the story of Hansel and Gretel, providing answers to Happy's multitude of questions and comments e.g., "How poor were they?" "That's not scary." "She made her house out of GINGERBREAD and CANDY?" Although he's being very brave and inquisitive, Happy is shocked to learn that witches keep spooky things like mouse tails in little jars. Well, Happy's very ready to go to sleep then (or at least end that story) but he has more questions, to which the answers are even more unsettling.  So our adorable little rodent, with the incessant questions, clever ideas and passive determination (really!), finds the means to sleep, albeit with a few detours.


Happy and John take me back to the days of Topo Gigio snuggling up to "Eddie" on The Ed Sullivan Show*, though I see a compassionate John Lennon in Mouse Tales' John. (Is the same name just a coincidence?)  The repartee Philip Roy has penned between the two is brisk, endearing and expressive, and never will the reader believe there is anything but love between these two individuals. And Andrea Torrey Balsara, a new illustrator definitely to watch in youngCanLit, gets the right mix of sweetness and reality, never going saccharine on the characters or the setting.

I love Mouse Tales and look forward to reading it to my kindergarten students, luckily never close enough to bedtime for them to adopt Happy's concerns.  But I especially look forward to more adventures in the Happy the Pocket Mouse series, knowing that the collaboration between Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara is marked for great youngCanLit success.

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* If you're too young to remember Topo Gigio, check out the first 30 seconds of the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/QjkElT5w6AE.

November 06, 2013

Seas of South Africa

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-247-1
200 pp.
Ages 10+
September, 2013

Oh, that Philip Roy.  He lulls the reader into calm with the beauty of his words.
I have learned that you cannot pick and choose what you will find when you go out to explore.  Sometimes you will find beautiful things, and sometimes you will find ugly things.  That is the world we live in.  In South Africa, where the warm Indian Ocean meets the cold Atlantic, like a meeting of two tigers, and where the hearts of people seem both bigger and darker than anywhere else, I found both. (pg. 1)
Then he plunges you into heart-stopping tension as Alfred, the star of The Submarine Outlaw Series, is accosted in Mozambique by a nasty behemoth of a pirate, threatened with a knife and almost drowned when the man tries to open the hatch while the sub is underwater.  So begins Seas of South Africa.

Though Alfred makes every effort to avoid the coast of Somalia and its pirates, he is dogged by one or more of them after escaping several altercations with the murderous thieves and relieving them of stolen treasure and money.   But, as he evades their search for him and as he frequently stops to wash the bloodied money, Alfred rescues a small parrot from a sinking boat, saves a young South African man who crashes his bicycle-powered plane into the ocean, survives the violence of mob justice in Soweto, and provides back-up for a wreck diver under attack from pirates.

But amidst the the heroics and narrow escapes, Alfred meets some memorable characters, learns more about South Africa's history including apartheid, experiences the anger, humour and breath-taking landscapes of Africa, and ultimately gains a new perspective that will direct his future exploring. 

I suspect that Alfred is a junior fictional version of Philip Roy himself: an explorer at his core with a heart filled with compassion and generosity, and the philosophical wisdom of an old spirit.  So his observations and appreciation of his experiences are probably as authentic as they can get, and that's how they read.  But in Seas of South Africa, Philip Roy goes beyond the adventure story, which is always part of The Submarine Outlaw Series, and the history, which often provides context for Alfred's explorations.  Delving deeper into the consequences of apartheid and its aftermath, Philip Roy demonstrates with subtlety that perspective can alter and justify interpretations of the same circumstances.  Prisons can be on isolated islands or within oneself, and desperation and violence may go hand-in-hand.  But, without a doubt, the clearest message given and received is to,
"Appreciate your life." (pg. 198)
Fortunately, Alfred clearly does, sharing that acknowledgement with the readers of Seas of South Africa and his intention to apply that obligation to ensuring the vitality and persistence of healthy oceans.  Bon voyage to our former submarine outlaw!

August 16, 2012

Outlaw in India

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-177-1
212 pp.
Ages 8-14
September, 2012


Since he was 14, Alfred has travelled in his twenty-foot, diesel-electric submarine (built by junkyard genius Ziegfried) from his home in Newfoundland around the Maritimes (Submarine Outlaw, Ronsdale Press, 2008); across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean (Journey to Atlantis, Ronsdale Press, 2009); down the St. Lawrence River (River Odyssey, Ronsdale Press, 2010); and into the Pacific and Mariana Islands (Ghosts of the Pacific, Ronsdale Press, 2011; reviewed here).  In his fifth adventure, Outlaw in India, Alfred and his crew (Hollie, the dog, and Seaweed, the seagull) have continued on from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Sea, heading for India.

The sub's unregistered status has Alfred trying to stay under the radar and sonar of the authorities, but selecting to follow a ship that turns out to be a navy frigate (their first destination Kochi is home to a naval base) makes the submarine a target for three depth charges sent out to disable them and force them to surface.  The sub loses its power and Alfred loses his hearing but is able to safely manoeuvre to a deserted boathouse connected to a series of old warehouses.  With the help of a ten-year-old boy who Alfred discovers living in the warehouse, Alfred is able to get medical help for his loss of hearing, to get money at the bank, and to get food.  As helpful as the young boy is, he is turned away from many places and Alfred learns the boy is Dalit, an Untouchable.  Though he shows the boy the submarine, cooks dinner for him, and teaches him to play chess, Alfred doesn't learn the boy's name, Radji, until a kindly electrician speaks to the boy and writes down his name for the hearing-impaired sailor.

The discrimination which Radji endures as normal behaviour has Alfred buying him sneakers, clothes, sunglasses and a hat to help hide his Untouchable appearance, but Radji is determined that he will have a happy life if he uses the skin-whitening cream advertised everywhere.  It is this same determination that has Radji stowing away on the sub when Alfred leaves.  Luckily Radji becomes Alfred's ears and helps them evade those tracking the sub.

In agreeing to take Radji to Varanasi so that he may cleanse himself of his sins in the Ganges River, Alfred must find a place to hide the sub in Goa, from which they will travel by train to Varanasi.  A fortuitous encounter with an elderly woman, Melissa Honeychurch, who has lived in India all her life, changes everything - their travel plans, their futures, their ideas - and shows Alfred another side of India.

While Radji and Melissa Honeychurch become two significant characters in the Submarine Outlaw series, perhaps the most imposing character in Outlaw in India is not a character at all.  It is India.  The country, as Alfred experiences it, is a living entity, a complicated being of the expected (e.g., the heat and amazing foods) and the surprising (e.g., discrimination and kindness).

"Every country smells different, feels different, and looks different.  India was the most beautiful country I ever saw.  If you think of a country as being like an animal then India was the animal with the most colour, the softest fur, the shiniest eyes, the sharpest claws, the longest tail, and the prettiest face.  She also smelled the nicest . . . and the worst." (pg.76)
I am convinced that for Philip Roy to create a character such as Alfred, one of such compassion, wonder and insight, Roy must be such a person himself for the character to be so real.  Alfred cannot  be a creation of the imagination.  I also suspect that Alfred's experiences in India are those of Philip Roy, demonstrating the fullness of his own experiences there, probably making him an excellent choice for an author visit to a school or library.

Though the series could easily be promoted as a great adventure series for boys, the Submarine Outlaw books will continue to garner fans of both genders for its great characters and adventure with a frisson of the impossible and the hope for everything working out well (a.k.a. the happy ending). Readers will continue to find all that here in Outlaw in India, fresh and engrossing, just as each new book in the series has offered.  With Africa set to be the location of the next book in the series, there is even more to anticipate.

February 27, 2012

Ghosts of the Pacific

by Philip Roy
Ronsdale Press
978-1-55380-130-6
251 pp.
Ages 11-14
2011

Though the term "ghost" suggests frightening disembodied souls, it can also refer to a faint trace, a remote possibility, a false image, or even be a synonym for our spirit.  As such, the title of Philip Roy's newest book in The Submarine Outlaw Series, Ghosts of the Pacific, could evoke horror or things left behind or future possibilities.  Fortunately, Philip Roy has not chosen to emphasize one over another, but instead embraces a more comprehensive definition, resulting in another fabulously rich tale of adventure.

Since fourteen, Alfred has been exploring the world using a twenty-foot, diesel-electric submarine built by junkyard genius and friend, Ziegfried.  Accompanied by his crew of Hollie, his dog, and Seaweed, a seagull, Alfred has travelled from his home in Newfoundland around the Maritimes (Submarine Outlaw, Ronsdale Press, 2008), across the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean (Journey to Atlantis, Ronsdale Press, 2009), and down the St. Lawrence River (River Odyssey, Ronsdale Press, 2010).  Now 16, Alfred is ready for his postponed trip to the Pacific Ocean, choosing to travel northward through the Arctic and head for Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands.

Travel to Baffin Island seems easy enough, until a hunk of ice with dark pebbles turns out to be a polar bear that chases a kayaking Alfred back to the sub.  This first "ghost" hails the onslaught of dangerous "growlers" (calved ice that has broken off icebergs and floats just below the surface) that are virtually imperceptible until they hit the sub, repeatedly.  Inattention in this unforgiving landscape puts Alfred and his crew into deathly peril several times (even if he does get some great photo ops).  However, it also provides him with the chance to meet Nanuq, an elder in Igloolik, who sadly talks of the sea dying and its inevitable destruction of all.

Death begins to haunt the story even more.  Travelling blindly beneath impassable ice, searching for occasional small breaks to allow for a battery recharge, and getting stuck for days in shifting ice brings out Alfred's fear but also his resilience and resolve.  His extraordinary character continues to help him endure the anguish of typhoons, the violent death of animals, the blight of garbage and the suffering of others.  Still, he enjoys the company of new friends, including a young girl named Cinnamon, learning more about the world, and consciously making a difference whenever he can.

Alfred has undertaken this journey to explore unbelievable places and their tragedies, from Franklin's expedition in search of the Northwest Passage ("...the Arctic was guarding them in an icy grave"; pg. 64), to Amelia Earhart's 1937 disappearance, to the graveyard of warships in the Bikini Atoll, and ultimately to the island of Saipan where Japanese civilians and officers chose suicide rather than surrender to the Allied forces in 1944.  But along his journey, his interest in the past brings him face-to-face with the tragedies of the present:  fishing trawlers whose illegal practices kill countless dolphins, sharks and turtles; acres of plastic garbage, twenty to thirty feet deep, trapping and killing all life, while slowly decomposing and killing even more; and the irradiated land and waters of the Bikini Atoll, testing grounds for atomic and hydrogen bombs during World War II.  Luckily, Philip Roy capably brings Alfred to see choices in his future that will allow him to continue exploration while addressing his new preoccupations.

Like a great adventure, Ghosts of the Pacific does not allow the reader the opportunity to be distracted or bored.  Even seemingly mundane tasks such as exercising or finding shelter become significant experiences which the reader must follow until settled.  The plot is relentless, always enriched with unexpected subplots, steeped in a multifaceted landscape of cold and warmth, hardness and softness.  Though Cinnamon who is still a vague character may take on a more important role, those of Ziegfried, Sheba, Hollie and Seaweed provide the depth to carry Alfred on further journeys.  Fortunately, I hear Philip Roy is already working on a fifth book in the series.


The video below captures Philip Roy talking about his Submarine Outlaw Series, including the submarine.
Uploaded by Overmarsh on February 12, 2010 to YouTube.com