A Celebration of Women Writers

Skipper John's Cook.
Illustrations by Mazoujian.
New York: The Junior Literary Guild and Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951.
Copyright not renewed.

A Caldecott Honor Book, 1952.
photo of the Caldecott Medal, a silver medallion with a youth riding a horse


The Junior Literary Guild and Charles Scribner's Sons
New York
Title page of the book, a fish flying through the air towards a boy with a hat

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.

dedication page, black typeface on white paper

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.

backside view of boy and dog heading through the town towards the water

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

two images right image: man in fisherman's garb standing on dock gesticulating towards the boat filled water left image: boy on a barrel with his dog nearby. five men stand in a row, arms crossed looking angry

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!

men sitting at and standing around a table looking at many large cans of beans and frowning

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

two images, left is dog walking on dock, right is Skipper John hanging up a cook wanted sign with a hammer and some nails

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.

two images, left group portrait of the cooks holding containers of beans right boy patting dog on the head

"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.

left: Skipper John in a thoughtful pose. right: boy and dog on hind legs begging for snacks.

"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.

left: text. right: boy looking at recipe book while mom sews and dog eats a fish

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.

mom waving goodbye from the dock

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.

Si on the boat

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!

boat and dory on the water with a net full of fish

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?

Si in kitchen looking unsure

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.

left: Men on boat cleaning fish. right: Si peeling potatoes, dog sitting up with fish in mouth.

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.

men at long table eating and smiling

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!

man with face in hands, elbows on the table, frowning. there is a plate of fish in front of him

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...

left: Skipper talking to Si. right: Skipper shaking hands with Si on the dock.

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?

Skipper putting up the sign again, Si and dog in background heading home
cat and kitten on doc with fish

dog wagging tail playfully at cat