A Celebration of Women Writers

Skipper John's Cook
by Marcia Brown
New York: The Junior Literary Guild and Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951. Copyright not renewed.
A Caldecott Honor Book, 1952.


The Junior Literary Guild
Charles Scribner's Sons
New York

To my sister Helen

Copyright 1951 by Marcia Brown. Printed in the
United States of America. All rights reserved. No
part of this book may be reproduced in any form
without the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

One fine morning
Si and his dog George started down to the
town wharf to watch the fishing boats.
Everywhere they went the fishermen called,
"Eh, Si, what do you say?" They tossed Si
a string of fish to cook for George.

Si's best friend was
    Skipper John of the Liberty Belle.
But today Skipper John was too busy to talk to Si.
Skipper John needed a cook.
The Liberty Belle was ready to sail, but
her crew refused to go.
The trouble was

On every trip with Skipper John
all they had to eat was beans.
The crew were so busy –
standing watch, reefing sails,
swabbing decks, catching fish,
cleaning fish and packing fish –
they had no time to cook.
So every day
on the Liberty Belle it was
    beans in the morning
    beans at noon
    beans at night
    and in between – BEANS!

Skipper John came striding down the dock.
Si and George watched him nail up a notice
on the fish house.
Si read off to George. Si thought, "Maybe..."
  George thought, "Why not?"
  Si was a good enough cook for him.

That afternoon many cooks applied for the job:
Mike, who was tall and red-haired
Davy, who was short and strong as a whale
Eben, who was thin as a dried herring
Josh, who was deaf as a haddock
and Si with George.
Each brought a sample to show
how well he could cook.

"What can you cook?"
called Skipper John.


"Beans and hardtack!"
"Beans and salt pork!"
"Beans and bacon!"
"Bean soup!" they shouted.
That is, everyone but Si.
"Give ME a try!" he called out.
Skipper John looked at Si.
Then George sat up and begged.
He looked very well fed.
Skipper John hired Si on the spot.

"We sail with the tide in the morning,"
Skipper John told Si.
And now that the Liberty Belle had a cook,
her crew signed up to go.

That night Si cooked George his
favorite supper and packed his sea bag.
He tied up his oilskins and
sea boots in a neat bundle.
His mother sewed him
a bright red shirt,
because all fishermen wore
bright red shirts.

The next morning Si kissed his mother
good-bye, slung his bag and gear over his shoulder,
whistled for George to come along, and boarded ship.
The tide was at the flood, the moorings were cast off,
and the Liberty Belle was off to the fishing grounds.

Now Si had learned his
way about a boat when most boys
were learning their ABC's. He
felt right at home on the
Liberty Belle. He tossed his
bag into his bunk and went
straight to the galley.

Before long the Liberty Belle
reached the fishing grounds.
"School O!" sang out the man on watch.
"School O!" sang out Skipper John.
"School O!" shouted all the crew.
"Lower the boat!" Down dropped
the dory, in jumped the men, and away
they dashed after a school of mackerel!

All day long the men
caught fish, cleaned fish, and packed fish. And
the longer they fished the hungrier they grew.
Johnny on the lookout thought,
"Oh, for a mess of chowder!"
Jamey at the handlines thought,
"Hot biscuit and boiled pudding!"
Barney at the wheel thought,
"Boiled beef and apple pie!"
Sam and Amos hauling in the nets thought,
"Even beans!"
They all wondered what the new
cook would give them.

Down in the galley Si wondered too.
He saw a barrel of potatoes,
a barrel of flour, a barrel of
salt pork, and a barrel of beans.
But how in the world to cook them?

George was getting hungry too.
George's favorite dinner was fish,
fresh fish, fried to a crisp brown.
Up the companionway to the deck he
trotted. Everywhere fish!
Fish for hundreds of dinners!
George picked out a large,
plump mackerel and ran
below to the galley.

Would Si please cook it for him? Si stopped
peeling potatoes long enough to fry the fish.
The smell of the frying rose in the air.
It reached Johnny on the lookout,
Jamey at the handlines,
Barney at the wheel and
Sam and Amos hauling in the nets.
It tickled the nose of
Skipper John.

Half the crew hurried below.
"Mm – grub ho!
Fried fish for dinner, Si?"
Now even if Si didn't know
how to cook much else,
he did know how to fry fish.
Wasn't it George's favorite dinner?

So Si fried more fish,
and then he fried potatoes,
enough for the whole crew.
"Fine grub, Si," the fishermen said.
They ate and ate, and Si fried and fried.
When all the crew had eaten, Si fried
fish for himself and George.

So every day
when Si was not
watching the fishermen catch fish, or
climbing the ratlines to watch for fish,
he was frying fish.
And every day on the Liberty Belle
the fishermen ate fish –
    fish in the morning
    fish at noon
    fish at night
    and in between – FISH!

Just as Si was
about to fry his 259th fish,
Skipper John went below to the galley.
"Eh, Si, what do you say?
What else can you cook but fish?"
"Beans, Sir. Fish and – beans."
So for the rest of the trip it was
fish and in between – beans.

When every barrel was full of fish,
the Liberty Belle sailed home,
unloaded her cargo,
and her crew were paid off.

Si packed his gear and strung a line of fish for George.
He shook hands with Skipper John.
"Fine trip, Skipper John," said Si.
"You're the best fish fryer I ever saw,"
said Skipper John. George thought Si was
the best fish fryer in the whole world.
Skipper John smiled as he watched them
heading down the dock for home. Then...

Skipper John nailed up another notice.
He needed a COOK, because
ANY fisherman gets tired of
    fish and beans in the morning
    fish and beans at noon
    fish and beans at night
    and in between – fish and beans.
        Wouldn't you?

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This book has been put on-line courtesy of Mary Mark Ockerbloom at
A Celebration of Women Writers.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom