The Cod's Tale


Once codfish was so plentiful that explorers reported being able simply to dip baskets into the ocean to collect them. For many hundreds of years people took it for granted, assuming that the millions of eggs that every female cod lays meant that there would always be millions of fish for man to eat-and get rich from. It was the abundance of cod and the way it could be easily dried and preserved that that allowed the Vikings to cross the cold Atlantic Ocean to America, and that fed Christopher Columbus and the ...
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Once codfish was so plentiful that explorers reported being able simply to dip baskets into the ocean to collect them. For many hundreds of years people took it for granted, assuming that the millions of eggs that every female cod lays meant that there would always be millions of fish for man to eat-and get rich from. It was the abundance of cod and the way it could be easily dried and preserved that that allowed the Vikings to cross the cold Atlantic Ocean to America, and that fed Christopher Columbus and the other explorers after that. Cod was the fish that led to the invention of frozen food, and inspired modern, efficient fishing systems. Now the threat of the cod's disappearance is affecting the modern laws of the seas, a reminder of the devastating effect man has had on our earth.

Based on Mark Kurlansky's critically acclaimed bestseller for adults, this incredible story combined with S. D. Schindler's stunning, detailed, and often funny watercolors offers a unique look at a thousand years of human civilization.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Cod's Tale:
*"Contributing enormously to the book's visual appeal, Schindler's excellent ink drawings, brightened with colorful washes, illustrate incidents from the text with clarity, a flair for the dramatic, and a sense of humor."
—Booklist, starred review
"A welcome and intriguing addition to library shelves."
School Library Journal
"Kurlansky is a masterful storyteller. . . . Schindler's pictures, from serious to silly, add to the pleasure . . . . Readers of this title will never again look at fish and chips in quite the same way."
Kirkus Reviews
"Breezy, kid-friendly prose. . . . Fascinating and informative . . . bound to hook young readers."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Publishers Weekly
In this concise and informative adaptation of his book for adults, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Kurlansky traces the role that the once plentiful Atlantic cod has played in the history of North America and Europe. After describing the habits and habitat of this fish, the author explains its importance to both the survival and the economy of various peoples the Vikings, the Basques, European explorers, subsequent North Atlantic colonists and 20th-century Americans as well as its role in the slave trade and even Columbus's 1492 voyage to America. Sprinkled throughout are some lively historical anecdotes and quotes from books from various periods. Translating his 300-plus page book to a picture book for young people, Kurlansky's narrative becomes somewhat murky or misleading at times (as when he notes that, unlike the original American colonies, those to the far north, such as Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland, remained loyal to the British Empire: "It was too cold to fish for cod in their northern winters and so they did not develop as prosperous an economy as had given the lower thirteen a feeling of independence"). But a timeline running along the bottom of each spread and the clever conceit of following the fish through history will keep readers on track. Schindler's (Gold Fever) watercolor-and-ink illustrations effectively depict the changing eras, and humorous particulars perk up the narrative. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
The humble codfish is here shown as a creature of vital importance in the history of the North Atlantic. After a summary of the characteristics and life cycle of the cod, Kurlansky details its relationship with the Vikings, the Basques, other explorers, the early settlers, the slave trade and the American Revolution. Changes in technology have led to the decimation of the once numerous cod. The author shows us what a tragedy this is, in a "fact' book that presents accurate information in a wonderfully imaginative way, both verbally and visually. Schindler's colored drawings are detailed and naturalistic with a sly, humorous style. Page designs vary according to the part of the story being told, from double pages for a whale hunt to action vignettes of the technique of salting the fish. Charts, maps, quotations and even recipes are integrated into the design, while a time line runs along the bottom of the pages, and there is a bibliography as well. Don't miss the Japanese fish print on the endpapers. 2001, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99. Ages 6 to 11. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Kurlansky seems to have a love affair with cod. His adult book, Cod (Walker, 1997), explored the role of this underestimated fish in world affairs. Here, with the help of an illustrator, he has employed much of the same information to fashion an interesting and readable book for children. He gives some standard facts and figures about these fish: how big they grow, how many eggs they hatch, and how they survive. But the book is much more than this. Time lines show the impact of cod fishing on scores of historical events. It is credited with bringing the Vikings to the New World, and the Basques were so proficient at it that they were able to trade their catch for other valuable necessities; and dried cod literally fed the slave trade. The story is brought up to the 20th century with the effect of vacuum freezing on the industry. Intertwined with these fascinating facts is the author's plea for changes in the international fishing laws. The excellent-quality, watercolor cartoons move the story along; the chockablock page design is a tad busy, but all of the added information, such as the old recipes provided in illustrated boxes and useful time lines across the spreads, is clearly and attractively delivered. A welcome and intriguing addition to library shelves.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An awesome introduction for young readers to the Atlantic codfish by the author of the bestselling adult title, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (1997). The readable narrative is coupled with handsome paintings of majestic codfish and often-humorous sketches of early explorers, fishermen, cooks, and historical figures. The author describes how the cod was to become: "not only the most commonly eaten fish in the Western world, but also one of the most valuable items of trade. Valued like gold or oil, cod played a central role in the history of North America and Europe." He includes information on life cycle and anatomy, enemies, where cod is found, and how it was caught, from early Viking days to the present. He describes how dried and salted cod became the staple food of the Vikings, the Basques, and other early explorers, permitting longer sea voyages. How it saved the lives of early settlers, and became an important currency in the slave trade; fueled prosperity for the 13 colonies; and was a bone of contention in the Revolutionary War. Kurlansky is a masterful storyteller with great enthusiasm for his subject, and Schindler's pictures, from serious to silly, add to the pleasure. A timeline across the bottom of the pages helps to put everything in perspective and a terrific bibliography offers a variety of other reading (and recipes) for young and old. Readers of this title will never again look at fish and chips in quite the same way. (Nonfiction. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399234767
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 633,701
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky is the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four books, including Cod, Salt, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, The Big Oyster, The Last Fish Tale, The Food of a Younger Land, The Eastern Stars, and Edible Stories. He lives in New York City.
S. D. Schindler has illustrated a wide range of picture books, including Hornbooks and Inkwells and Gold Fever (both by Verla Kay), The Unforgettable Season (by Phil Bildner), The Snow Globe Family (by Jane O’Connor), Louder, Lili (by Gennifer Choldenko), and The Story of Salt (by Mark Kurlansky). He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 


Blessed with extraordinary narrative skills, journalist and bestselling author Mark Kurlansky is one of a burgeoning breed of writers who has turned a variety of eclectic, offbeat topics into engaging nonfiction blockbusters.

Kurlansky worked throughout the 1970s and '80s as a foreign correspondent in Europe and Mexico. He spent seven years covering the Caribbean for the Chicago Tribune and transformed the experience into his first book. Published in 1992, A Continent of Islands was described by Kirkus Reviews as "[a] penetrating analysis of the social, political, sexual, and cultural worlds that exist behind the four-color Caribbean travel posters."

Since then, Kurlansky has produced a steady stream of bestselling nonfiction, much of it inspired by his longstanding interest in food and food history. (He has worked as a chef and a pastry maker and has written award-winning articles for several culinary magazines.) Among his most popular food-centric titles are the James Beard Award winner Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (1997), Salt: A World History (2002), and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (2006). All three were adapted into illustrated children's books.

In 2004, Kurlansky cast his net wider with 1968: The Year that Rocked the World, an ambitious, colorful narrative history that sought to link political and cultural revolutions around the world to a single watershed year. While the book itself received mixed reviews, Kurlanski's storytelling skill was universally praised. In 2006, he published the scholarly, provocative critique Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea. It received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Despite occasional forays into fiction (the 2000 short story collection The White Man in the Tree and the 2005 novel Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue), Kurlansky's bailiwick remains the sorts of freewheeling colorful, and compulsively readable micro-histories that 21st-century readers cannot get enough of.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Hartford, CT
    1. Education:
      Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

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