Minnow on the Say


David can't believe his luck when a worn wooden canoe mysteriously appears on the banks of the River Say behind his house. With summer stretching endlessly before him, it seems too good to be true.

Soon there is another boy—Adam, the Minnow's rightful owner. Adam wants his boat back...but something else, too: a trustworthy friend to help him find the long lost ancestral jewels that could save his family from financial disaster!

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David can't believe his luck when a worn wooden canoe mysteriously appears on the banks of the River Say behind his house. With summer stretching endlessly before him, it seems too good to be true.

Soon there is another boy—Adam, the Minnow's rightful owner. Adam wants his boat back...but something else, too: a trustworthy friend to help him find the long lost ancestral jewels that could save his family from financial disaster!

Can two boys find what history has kept an untouchable secret for hundreds of years? Or will they lose the race against time and against another treasure seeker lurking at the river's edge.

Two English boys, David and Adam, spend the summer canoeing on the River Say and, with just an old riddle for a clue, try to find a treasure hidden along its banks by one of Adam's ancestors.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Nearly a half-century ago, children were introduced to this wonderful mystery of a boy's quest for his family's secret treasure. With the current reissue, children today can experience the pleasure of this classic all over again. The story centers on Adam, an orphan who lives with his aunt and grandfather in a run-down family estate. Increasingly tight finances have made it impossible for Adam to stay, and he is to be sent to live with cousins at the end of the summer. When Adam meets David, the two become fast friends and Adam shares his secret plan--a family treasure was hidden four hundred years ago, and if Adam can find it, he will be able to stay with his aunt. The problem is that the only clue to the treasure's whereabouts is a four-line verse which has left family members baffled for centuries. As the boys work to solve the mystery before the end of the summer, they encounter a rival searching for the same treasure. Just when the situation looks most bleak, a surprising turn of events leads to a happy ending for everyone. Although the British references and use of language may be unfamiliar in places, the story is manageable for middle grade readers or could be used as a read-aloud for less experienced readers. Strong character development, familiar elements, and an engaging plot make this story a winner. 2000 (orig. 1955), Greenwillow Books, Ages 10 to 14, $16.95. Reviewer: Carol Lynch
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688170981
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.61 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

David moss lived with his family in the last house in Jubilee Row. Their house was like all. the others, but their garden was something quite out of the ordinary: it ran straight back for the first twenty yards, like all the other gardens; then, when the others stopped, this took a sudden turn to the right and, in another minute, it had reached an unexpected destination. When the other gardens ended in a hedge, a fence, or a stretch of wire-netting, the Mosses' garden was brought to a stop only by the softly flowing waters of the River Say.

" No, Becky, no!' said Mrs Moss. 'You must never play by the river alone. David only goes on to the landing-stage because he's older; if he falls in, he can swim.'

The landing-stage was over-grandly named, for nothing and nobody had ever landed there; it had been made by Mr Moss only so that he could more easily fill his watering-can from the river. In the day-time Mr Moss drove a bus between Castleford and the Barleys; after his day's work, he liked to garden.

David, as well as his father, had uses for the landing-stage, but they were not altogether satisfactory ones. He fished, of course, but he had only a net and jar, and this part of the river was underpopulated with minnows and sticklebacks. He launched boats, but his boats were only toys, carved with a penknife or made of cocked-up paper. He tired even of boat-racing -that is, of starting two boats together, and then pedalling round to the bridge over the Say below Little Barley, to see which boat was first at the bridge and downstream towards Castleford. Such occupations-such craft-came to seem unworthy of the solid and spaciouslanding-stage of Mr Moss's construction.

One summer, David had been to the landing-stage even less than usual. He had been working hard at school; and besides, the summer had been miserably wet so far. The end of term came, and David passed his examinations: he would be going to the big school in Castleford next term. He was pleased, but even more pleased because of the long summer holidays ahead. If only it would stop raining! The weather was warm, but the rain fell in torrents.

'Do you think it'll ever stop?' asked David.

It'll stop,' said Mr Moss. 'But not before it batters my sunflowers down. And there'll be floods.'

"Bad floods, dear?' said Mrs Moss.

'Well, floods.'

Night after night, David went to sleep with the sound of the rain beating on the roof. Then, one morning, he woke to quietness and sunlight. Out of the window, the sky was a clear, pale blue; later on in the day the blue would deepen, with heat; there would be no clouds-no more rain.

David dressed and ran downstairs. In the holidays he delivered morning newspapers in the Barleys, to earn pocket-money; he always hurried through some porridge before he started out-his mother would not let him cycle on an empty stomach-but he left the rest of his breakfast until his return.

This morning Mr Moss had already left for his work, and David was alone at the breakfast-table when Becky came in from the garden.

'David! The river's high-so high! Is it floods?'

'You know you're too little to go near the river alone, BeckyMother says so.'

'I didn't go on to the landing-stage,' said Becky. 'But I'd never seen floods.'


When I come back, I'll take you just to look,' promised David. He felt sorry for Becky: it might be several years yet before she was old enough to swim, and so she missed a good deal.

'And will you take me in your boat as well?'

'What would a fat little girl like you do in a paper boat? Or in one of my wooden ones, even?'

'But the lovely big boat you have now, David-will you take me in it?'

'The one nearly six inches long?' said David teasingly.

'Th every big one. Will you take me?'

David was in a hurry. He finished the last spoonfull of porridge, and ran out to his bicycle.

Becky followed him. 'Will you, Davy? Will. you?'

' If there's room in any boat of mine, I'll take you in it,' David called back, as he shot off Becky seemed content with this, and waved until bicycle and rider were out of sight


The sun was well up before David got home from his newspaper round. The rest of his breakfast was waiting for him on the table; but the kitchen-door was open, and through it he could see the garden-door open; beyond that the sun was shining outside on grass and leaves still dark and glossy from the rains. He slipped past the breakfast-table and straight out into the garden. He heard Becky call, and her feet coming after him, but he could not wait.

He turned the bend in the garden, and there was the gate to the landing-stage, but the river beyond it-that could hardly be the River Say! The waters were a pale brown, quite without transparency, and curdled here and there into white or yellow froth; they hurried along with a full, rippling motion, and with a lippin sound that David bad never heard before, The water was higher than he had ever seen it; on the far side of the river it had risen over the bank and moved among the grass-blades of the meadow -, on his side it had covered part of the landing-stage, and a trickle of water had crept under the gate into the garden itself.

David felt wonderfully excited. He straddled the water on the garden-path, and went up to the gate for a better view.

Becky had nearly caught up with him. 'Your big boat, Davy-please!'

"Oh, yes, Becky!' he said impatiently.

Then he saw what Becky was talking about. At the landingstage waited a real boat, a canoe at least ten feet long. It was not made fast anywhere, but the current kept it a prisoner in the angle between the submerged landing-stage and the river-bank. Its nose bobbed every now and then against one of the posts of the landing-stage; it reminded David of a dog that wants to be taken out for a walk. The canoe was quite empty.

Minnow on the Say. Copyright © by Philippa Pearce. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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