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A FULL HAND by Thomas F. Yezerski


by Thomas F. Yezerski & illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-42502-7
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Readers young and old are sure to learn something new in this informative story. Asa’s father is the captain of his own canal boat, carrying coal from Pennsylvania to Jersey City. When his mule driver quits, the Captain decides that nine-year-old Asa is old enough to help him on the five-day run. Asa is used to putting the mules in the stable, but now that he’s responsible for keeping them from running the boat aground, they suddenly seem to be much larger. In remarkably simple language, and yet with great detail, Yezerski (Perfect Puppy, not reviewed, etc.) describes the fascinating journey of the coal. First is the clever way the railroad cars open at the bottom and drop the coal down chutes to the waiting boats, which are themselves designed to come apart into two sections for quicker loading. Then, the travel through the canal begins. As they come to a place where the canal level rises, Asa learns the workings of a lock. At a river crossing, the canal goes over an aqueduct—a bridge with water in it for the boat. When they reach a steep hill, Asa thinks the canal ends, but instead, learns about the ingenious inclined plane. Later that afternoon, though, they meet an obstacle there is no way around—a thunderstorm. As lightning strikes a tree, the mules spook and ground the boat. The Captain tumbles into the swift-moving canal, but Asa’s quick thinking saves the day. On shore, they survey the damaged boat, and Asa tells his Dad that he would like to be a captain someday, too. A foreword tells readers about the Morris Canal, on which the story was based, and the layout of the boats that ran on the canal. The watercolor illustrations complement the text perfectly; on the one hand educating readers about the many creative inventions that allow boats to travel across the country, while on the other, showing a father and son working together to support their family. Authentic 1800s details and fantastic fall foliage only add to the appeal. A sure hit with young budding engineers. (Picture book. 4-10)