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.”