Flaked Out: The Story of Cod and New­found­land


Though he lives with his family in Ohio and On­tario, Charlie H. Col­man is pas­sion­ate about New­found­land. It all be­gan for him when he moved here in 1959; he spent six years grow­ing up in St. John’s.

He be­gan col­lect­ing stamps at the age of five. Now he “ loves imag­in­ing the events de­tailed in those tiny pic­tures,” he says.

He turned his love of New­found­land, and es­pe­cially New­found­land’s stamps, into his sec­ond chil­dren’s book, Flaked Out: The Story of Cod and New­found­land. (His first book was The Bald Ea­gle’s View of Amer­i­can His­tory, pub­lished in 2006.)

Col­man writes in the fore­word to his lat­est book about cod and New­found­land: “A won­der­ful New­found­lan­der, Mr. House, took my dad and me cod jig­ging. We rowed a dory into a bay … I plunged a line into the cold wa­ter. At the end of my line hung a jig­ger … I pulled the jig­ger up and down un­til some­thing grabbed it. The light grey of the cod’s belly flashed as I pulled it to the boat.

“Back on shore, Mr. House gut­ted my catch over the warm, grey peb­bles, leav­ing the in­nards for the flies, and bring­ing the fil­lets to Mrs. House. She pep­pered and fried them for din­ner. The flakes of flesh shone on my plate, and I can taste that del­i­cate meal as I write.”

Fast for­ward to Col­man’s last visit to New­found­land: he ob­served a dory rot­ting “in front of the bay where I’d caught the cod,” he re­calls.

In 1992, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­clared a mora­to­rium on cod fish­ing be­cause of dev­as­tat­ingly low cod stocks.

Col­man says he wrote his book for two rea­sons: “ to in­tro­duce kids to the sweep of New­found­land his­tory while show­ing them the magic of stamps.”

In 16 brief (mostly one-page) chap­ters, he tells the story of “what hap­pens when so­ci­ety fails to con­trol its tech­nol­ogy, and how so­ci­ety makes amends,” he says.

“New­found­land is also a clear-cut ex­am­ple of great his­tor­i­cal move­ment: a peo­ple’s fight to es­tab­lish a cul­ture.”

His book is unique in that he uses “ New­found­land stamps to help vi­su­al­ize a past era,” he ex­plains. “ These works of art memo­ri­al­ize a way of life that has turned into shad­ows among the sea mists.”

Each chap­ter is headed with one, some­times two, full­colour re­pro­duc­tions of New­found­land stamps, for a to­tal of 19.

In the au­thor’s notes at the end of the book, Col­man writes about the stamps them­selves, as well as a six-page fea­ture on the story of cod and New­found­land. The book also has an in­dex.

Ac­cord­ing to Kirkus Re­views, “Col­man’s tale be­gins with the north­ern land’s first set­tlers, the Beothucks, who ar­rived nearly 2,000 years ago to a bounty of giant fish swim­ming off the coast.

“ Col­man traces the groups of Euro­pean ex­plor­ers and fish­er­men who fol­lowed and, in an air of law­less­ness and with a lust for cod, de­vel­oped var­i­ous ad­vanced fish­ing tech­niques.

“ This led to Queen El­iz­a­beth’s claim­ing New­found­land and en­cour­ag­ing the year-round set­tle­ment of the ter­ri­tory.

“As the an­i­mals were fished at younger and younger ages, grow­ing smaller and smaller, laws re­quir­ing spe­cific kind of nets were put into ef­fect.

“Around the turn of the 20th cen­tury, the first hatch­eries ap­peared to aid in the re­pop­u­la­tion of the di­min­ish­ing species.

“ The rapid and dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of hu­man set­tle­ment and con­sump­tion take a turn for the bet­ter near the end, as we learn that in more re­cent decades, sci­en­tists and the gov­ern­ment have taken the helm in the cause of cod.

“ Though the fish are nowhere near the size they were when the Beothucks first feasted on them, their pop­u­la­tion has been in­creas­ing.”

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