A fictional--though closely researched--account of four generations on Tilghman Island in the Chesapeake Bay, tracing their joys and hardships from the turn of the century through the Depression and WW II, and into the 1960s, when increasing pollution in the bay and mysterious diseases in the oyster beds decimated the catch. Mitchell (Red Bird, 1996, etc.) ends her tale of the watermen on a hopeful note: The youngest family member resolves to go to college to learn how to preserve this threatened way of life. Most young readers will need some background about the place and its circumscribed economy; Bernard Wolf's Amazing Grace (1986) would be a good companion. The soft hues and changing lights--brightly glinting or diffuse--of San Souci's watercolors illumine a maritime world and its self-sufficient people. The first painting, of a house window framed by simple white shutters, perfectly sets the mood, for readers see not only who is within (a waterman holding his child), but also the view of buildings, bay, and boats reflected in the glass.