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Book ReMarks: Elliot and the Impossible Fish


Last night something woke me after the witching hour struck. No, it wasn’t something that went Bump. It was a worrisome thought that rousted me.

Before tucking in, I’d read Elliot and the Impossible Fish [Tuckamore Books] thinking I’d scribble some remarks about it in the morning.

Elliot and the Impossible Fish is a children’s book — text by Rebecca North; illustrations by Laurel Keating. For most of the story Elliot is at sea in an open boat — a dory, or punt, or Rodney, I don’t one of those small boats from the other. At times Elliot is standing up flapping his arms or running and jumping, on suggestions from a puffin, a seal, a jaeger, for frig sake.

No wonder I bolted up in the dead of night wondering if Elliot was wearing a lifejacket. I could not remember. Tormented, I got up, found the book and sighed with relief. Sure enough, Elliot was right there on the cover wearing a lifejacket buckled snuggly over his pyjamas.

That’s right, over his pyjamas.

Elliot is fishing in a dream, as it turns out.

It’s appropriate, I s’pose, that I had dreamtime fear for his safety.

Fancying himself hooking a gigantic fish, “so big it would be on TV,” Elliot cuddles in for the night wrapped in a quilt that prob’ly his granny made — a quilt, by the way, that is transformed into a dreamtime dory sail. Elliot falls asleep wishing upon a star, p’raps with strains of Jiminy Cricket’s song drifting through his noggin.

The first dream-scene is Elliot aboard his dory all set to start fishing — with a rod and reel.

Grand-Pappy, were he not gone to glory, would be knocked on his arse at the sight of a young feller out fishing with a rod and reel.

“My son, you needs a proper jigger,” he’d say.

But Elliot is a boy of the times. Nowadays — the Era of the Moratorium; the Time of the Food Fishery — it’s apparently not uncommon to use a rod and reel when fishing on the saltwater.

Pop, b’y,” I’d have to say to Grand-Pappy, “the Times they are ‘a changin’. Sure, Elliot is wearing a lifejacket, something you never did.”

I bet Rebecca North knows that Ernest Hemingway has written some of the best lines ever, the truest lines ever, about being on the ocean in an open boat hunting the fish of a lifetime.

But, Rebecca, my love, you have topped ol’ Hemingway. You have described the quintessential reality about fishing conditions —

“Then he (Elliot) waited and waited and waited…”

And —

“So they (Elliot and the Puffin) waited and waited and waited…”

The endless waiting while fishing is why years ago, on my final trip to a salmon river, I chucked my rod and reel and all other fishing paraphernal I owned into the woods.


There’s a frightening scene in Elliot and the Impossible Fish. It’s one that’s likely to give me nightmares and wake me at midnight not caring a fig whether or not Elliot is wearing a lifejacket.

There are monsters in the deep, eh b’ys?

The point of view is from deep in the sea looking up at the dark bottom of Elliot’s dory. Streeling down from the dory is a fishing line with a hook half the size of a grapnel attached. A boa constrictor worm is curled on the hook.

That’s not the scary part.

The scary part is the brace of squid squalls, poisonous tentacles trailing, swimming up towards the dory’s bottom.

Granted, Laurel Keating has drawn sunbeams penetrating the sea, but that does nothing to soothe my nerves.

There are monsters in the deep!

Does Elliot ever hook the Impossible Fish?

It’s a dream; of course, he does.

The Impossible Fish, boa constrictor glutched deep in his gullet, comes out of the water handy the full size of a page, swamps the dory…

… and Elliot wakes up — minus his lifejacket, because it was a dream, remember — in a bed soaked with sea water and strewn with seaweed, beach rocks, a crab and other assorted bottom feeders, and a length of mooring rope.

This next bit tickles me.

Even Stephen King — the greatest living storyteller — will give a nod to a previous yarn in his latest novel, giving the yarn a cameo appearance, a reminder of bygone entertainment.

Guess what.

The mooring rope on Elliot’s bed is wrapped around a copy of Yaffle’s Journey, a previous book that Laurel Keating had a hand in illustrating.

Way to go, eh b’ys?

Thank you for reading.

— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville. He thinks it’s cool to live in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. He does not think it cool to live in a province that taxes books. Reach him at

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