The Baitchopper


167 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88862-599-5




Reviewed by Cecile Ghosh

Cecile Ghosh was a librarian living in Rigaud, Quebec.


The Baitchopper is set in Widow’s Harbour, a small fishing village in Nova Scotia. The story revolves around Andrew Gurney, whose father Phonse and other fishermen hold a strike when their company outlaws their demand to organize a union. Fighting erupts among the villagers when parents and their children take sides. Andrew, a high-spirited thirteen-year-old, feels “that nothing ever happens around here.” Ironically, he gets more than he bargained for when he and his friends fall prey to dangerous incidents from the rival gang whose fathers oppose the strike. Sociology interweaves with fiction when we are pulled across distance to a small coastal village where we hear the diction, humour, songs, and fishing jargon of Nova Scotian fishermen. We sympathize with scenes which depict and bear witness to the hard life of Phonse and his friends, who rely upon the tempestuous ocean for their living. The 20 characters that populate the novel sometimes hinder the drama’s pace. Nevertheless, the author does create a community atmosphere where a proud and fiery people love and cherish one another against the powers that be. There are scenes with an obtrusive ring. This happens when Andrew is introduced to the whys and wherefores of strikes, or when his cousin Denny explains to Scott the obvious fact that one hunts clams only at low tide. In the author’s overzealousness to blend fact with fiction, he sometimes underestimates the knowledge of his readers. This adventure story will enjoy a wide appeal among young readers interested in oceans and fishing. They will be treated to skindiving for hidden treasure, deep-sea fishing, fights between rival gangs, clam digging, and near death escapes on land and sea. Simultaneously, they will emerge with knowledge about strikes, fishermen, fishing boats, skindiving, and the ocean, against whose fury and might Andrew and Denny test their mettle. Fine black-and-white illustrations throughout the book dramatize the high points of this sea adventure.


Cameron, Silver Donald, “The Baitchopper,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed March 1, 2024,