Harding, Marcia Pierce. 2018. Secrets of Sable Island. Nimbus Publishing Limited, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 206 pages.
Review (Janet Barkhouse): The author, Marcia Pierce Harding, of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, taught elementary school for thirty-three years, and knows what entertains youngsters. This charming children’s book, set in the early 1900s, is the tale of Caleb, a fourteen-year-old boy working on a fishing schooner not far from Sable Island, the dreaded “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. During a storm, Caleb was washed overboard by a huge wave, and swept away in the dark and churning seas. The currents carried him to the shore of Sable Island, where, with the help of a wild stallion, Caleb is rescued and healed by a man who insists on keeping his presence on the island a secret—and that’s just one of many secrets that tantalize Caleb, as they will intrigue the story’s young readers. Children will learn about the history of Sable Island’s life-saving stations, in a story that expresses the island’s nature—wild, mysterious, and exciting.
The six interior illustrations are pencil sketches by Laura Cosham. The pale and soft rendering of these images is perhaps consistent with the story’s theme of mystery and secrets. The most evocative of these is an illustration on page 69, a fleeting glimpse, “Barely visible in the swirling mist was a girl on horseback. Every few seconds she was clearly visible in the flash of light shining down from the lighthouse.”
The book concludes with a useful glossary explaining words such as “barque” (a sailing ship with three or more masts) and “withers” (the highest part of the back of a horse’s neck, between the shoulder blades).