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Swim that rock

First edition.
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2014.
Physical Description:
293 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
When his dad goes missing in a fishing-boat accident, fourteen-year-old Jake refuses to think he may have lost his father forever. But suddenly, nothing seems certain in Jake's future, and now his family's diner may be repossessed by loan sharks. In Narragansett Bay, scrabbling out a living as a quahogger isn't easy, but with the help of some local clammers, Jake is determined to work hard and earn enough money to ensure his family's security and save the diner in time.
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A young working-class teen fights to save his family's diner after his father is lost in a fishing-boat accident.

When his dad goes missing in a fishing-boat accident, fourteen-year-old Jake refuses to think he may have lost his father forever. But suddenly, nothing seems certain in Jake's future, and now his family's diner may be repossessed by loan sharks. In Narragansett Bay, scrabbling out a living as a quahogger isn't easy, but with the help of some local clammers, Jake is determined to work hard and earn enough money to ensure his family's security and save the diner in time. Told with cinematic suspense and a true compassion for the characters, Swim That Rock is a fast-paced coming-of-age story that beautifully and evocatively captures the essence of coastal Rhode Island life, the struggles of blue-collar family dynamics, and the dreams of one boy to come into his own.

Author Notes

John Rocco grew up Barrington, Rhode Island. He studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts in New York City.

John collaborated with actor/comedian Whoopi Goldberg on the picture book Alice. Shortly after the project was finished he moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a creative director.

At Walt Disney Imagineering John designed many attractions at Disney's Epcot, including the Post-Shows for Spaceship Earth and Mission Space. He also served as the art director for DisneyQuest, an interactive theme park in Downtown Disney. At Dreamworks, John was the pre-production art director for animated film Shrek.

In 2005 John shifted his focus to writing and illustrating children's books and created Wolf! Wolf! which netted him the Borders Original Voices Award for best picture book. His next book was Moonpowder (May 2008) followed by Fu Finds the Way (Oct 2009).

John continues to collaborate with authors and has illustrated Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System (Sep 2008) for Kathleen V. Kudlinski and The Lightening Thief (Dec 2009) for Rick Riodan. He also illustrates all the covers for Rick Riordan's bestselling YA series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

In 2012, his title Blackout was a Caldecott Honor recipient and made the ALA Notable Children's Books list.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-After growing eight inches in only a year, 14-year-old Jake Cole has a knack for tripping over himself. Since his dad has gone missing-presumed dead in a fishing accident-it's not only Jake's body that feels out of control. If he and his mom can't come up with $10,000 in two weeks, they will lose their diner on Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and will be forced to move in with Jake's grandmother in Arizona. Determined not to leave his father behind, Jake takes matters into his own hands, working any job he can get that will bring him closer to paying off his family's debt. During the day, this means quahogging with the local clammers. At night, Jake takes riskier jobs, working for a gritty and mysterious stranger known only as "Captain." On the water, Jake is anything but uncoordinated. He can bring in more quahogs than almost any clammer in the Bay, but will it be enough to save the diner? This fast-paced coming-of-age tale follows a predictable plotline that readers have seen before, but the rich imagery of life in a fishing town, combined with action that primarily revolves around intense quahogging expeditions, makes this a refreshingly unique read. The beginning feels harried, throwing readers into the middle of a confusing action sequence, but the authors soon find their rhythm. Although somewhat light on character development, this feel-good story illustrates the value of hard work and determination.-Liz Overberg, Darlington School, Rome, GA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rocco (Blackout) and Primiano deliver a predictable but entertaining coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the New England fishing industry. In order to save his family's diner, 14-year-old Jake Cole needs to finish raising $10,000 by the end of the month, so he follows in his late father's footsteps as a quahogger, fishing up the profitable clams. While he also takes on some less-than-legal nighttime work with the shady "Captain," Jake's big chance seems poised to arrive with the opening of Barrington Beach, long closed due to pollution and one of the best quahog sites in the area. Can Jake balance quahogging by day and avoiding the "clam cops" at night, while growing closer to the lovely Darcy at the diner? Steeped in atmosphere and rich in detail, this adventure captures the salt in the air as well as the omnipresent ticking deadline. While the framework, if not the specifics, of the story are familiar, Jack's struggle is easily relatable thanks to deft characterizations and an overall sense of authenticity. Ages 12-up. Agent: Rob Weisbach, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Jake Cole's father had been one of the best shell fishermen in Narragansett Bay until he injured his back and settled into running the Riptide Diner. When he goes missing, Jake and his mother lose their house, and now the diner is in danger of being repossessed. A mysterious character named Captain and seasoned fisherman Gene Hassard help Jake earn money and learn the ways of the bay. While some quahoggers initiate their "pickers" with challenges such as swimming a huge rock out to a skiff, Gene knows better: "You've already got your own rock to swim, Jake." Jake tries to help his mother hang on to the Riptide, working long hours in the diner and on Gene's boat. Readers will be hooked by the exciting opening scene as a hurricane rips the shore and Captain takes Jake out on the dangerous waters to pirate motors from sinking boats. With a lushly detailed sense of place and character, the story delineates the struggle of a boy coming to terms with his situation. Life lessons are realistically drawn from old quahoggers: "A lot of these guys out here," Gene tells Jake, "will only work if the wind and the tide are just right, just the way they like it. We have to be better than that, because you know things aren't always the way we'd like them to be." dean schneider (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A teen goes to desperate lengths to save his family's diner in this unevenly executed fishing drama set on Narragansett Bay. Fourteen-year-old Jake Cole's father was lost at sea last year. Since then, he and his mother haven't been able to keep up with the family diner's mortgage payments to the local loan sharks. His mother is ready to give up and move in with his grandmother in Arizona, but Jake has a plan. Previously polluted Barrington Beach is about to be reopened for quahog harvesting. If he and his father's old quahogging buddy Gene can pull enough clams once the beach reopens, they may be able to raise most of the mortgage money. Jake is working on getting the rest of the money by illegally fishing at night with a mysterious man he calls Captain, who claims to have known his father. But when Gene is hurt in a boating accident, Jake must work Barrington Beach alone. Can he pull enough quahogs to pay off the mob? While the distinct, clearly realized setting details distinguish this title from the vast schools of novels for young teens swimming in the publishing sea, choppy pace and perfunctory dialogue drag it down to the ocean floor. Nevertheless, fills the bill for teens looking for an atypical action adventure. (map) (Fiction. 12-15)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Jake's dad is lost at sea, presumed dead. Unless Jake and his Valium-dulled mother can pay off a loan shark by the end of the month, they'll lose their cafe and be forced to leave for Arizona. Jake's desperate efforts to raise the money working by day as a picker on one quahogging boat and by night on another that harvests from polluted beds closed off by the Department of Environmental Management fall short. But thanks to the efforts of friends and his own act of kindness to an inexperienced quahogger, the debt is paid just in time. As a bonus, he finds that he has also worked his way past the worst of his grief and anger. A values-driven story developed around the tribulations and rewards of quahog harvesting seems unlikely to find a wide audience. However, Jake's willingness to work wicked hard on both sides of the law to remain part of his Narragansett Bay community is vividly conveyed for an interested audience. The coauthors incorporate autobiographical elements, which lend the tale's cast and setting a salty authenticity.--Peters, John Copyright 2014 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

"SWIM THAT ROCK," an affable coming-of-age novel by Jay Primiano and John Rocco, is bookended by pencil drawings ostensibly made by Jake Cole, the book's 14-year-old narrator. The opening spread (in fact drawn by Rocco, a noted children's book illustrator) features maps of the story's setting - Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay and Upper Bay Tributaries. Their style and annotations call to mind Christopher Robin's whimsical map inside the front cover of A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh." In place of the "100 Aker Wood," Jake gives us "100 Acre Cove"; instead of "Where the Woozle Wasn't," he marks the spot where he "caught 17 stripers with Captain." By contrast, the diagrams at the book's conclusion depict the adult tools of the professional quahogger, or clam digger. Taken together, Jake's two sets of drawings capture the precarious position in which he finds himself, with one size-13 foot in childhood and the other in a premature adulthood hastened by his father's disappearance at sea. With his father lost and his mother unable to pay off a $10,000 debt owed to a local loan shark, it falls to Jake to try to save the family diner, the Riptide, by coming up with this seemingly unattainable sum of money. If he fails, he and his mother will have to move in with his grandmother in Arizona, leaving behind their waterfront community and any possibility of finding the father Jake feels certain is still alive. Already 6-foot-2 in eighth grade, Jake has been tarred with the nickname Unco, for "uncoordinated," and he needs to grow into his body as well as his newly burdensome responsibilities. But his awkwardness plagues him only on land. On the water, he is as capable as they come, a quality apparently inherited from his father, a locally renowned quahogger. In his pursuit of quick cash, Jake takes jobs with two very different men who represent, rather too schematically, wrong and right. By night, he goes out on a roaring speedboat with a salty enigma known only as Captain, whom he helps to fish illegally and steal boat engines. By day, Jake works as a clam-sorting "picker" for Gene Hassard, his father's soft-spoken best friend, who teaches him how to use finesse and a bullrake to "tickle" the quahogs from the bottom of the bay. When Jake asks why Gene doesn't make him take part in the initiation rite of swimming while carrying a heavy rock, Gene acknowledges the boy's adult-size burden, saying, "You've already got your own rock to swim." This burden only grows after Gene is badly hurt, forcing Jake to take over as captain just before a maritime gold rush brought on by the opening of an area beach to quahogging for the first time in years. The novel's authors grew up on fishing vessels - at the age of 11, Rocco worked as a picker on Primiano's quahogging boat - and their storytelling is at its most assured during the bay and river scenes and in describing the nuances of the bullraker's craft: the attention to shifting winds, the sensitivity needed "to feel your way down to the end of that pole, where that rake is sitting on the bottom." But like their protagonist, the writers are less sure-footed on land. The villain of the piece, a heat-packing government "clam cop," utters threats of surpassing hokiness, and Jake's Valium-popping mother lacks the dimensionality even resigned, reactive people possess. This pale depiction of the mother may not bother young readers, however, as it does make Jake appear bolder by contrast, heightening the sense that the boy is the hero of his own tale. More problematic is the authors' lack of attention to the character of the lost father. Although Jake clearly misses him enormously, there is a disappointing lack of detail in his account of their relationship, a dearth of the kind of memories that might have given more emotional punch to the apparent death of a man the reader has never met. Despite these shortcomings, Jake's voice is credible and appealing. Particularly touching is his developing relationship with Darcy, a waitress who wears long sleeves to conceal her arms, one of which is badly burned. Darcy's scars, like Jake's ungainliness, can be read as any flaw that preoccupies an ill-at-ease teenager. But their story offers a way toward self-acceptance. As Jake and Darcy find each other, they also find themselves. JOHN FREEMAN GILL writes frequently for The Times. At 15, he worked as a clam and oyster shucker on the East Coast.