for Boy of the Deeps
by Ian Wallace
The “deeps” were the coal mines of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, a virtual city under the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. James is the boy, and like many boys working in mines across the globe, his childhood is actually behind him. Each day James now goes underground to work with his father in the deeps. He started out above ground as a breaker boy, doing the difficult job of sorting pieces of sharp slate from coal. He’s now headed regularly a thousand feet underground to the tedious, dangerous, health-robbing, rat-filled environment where boys and men work side by side to mine the rich coal deposit under the sea. Wallace’s story captures the ominous nature of this work, as well as the life-threatening event James’ father experiences one day. He ingeniously created sources of light for the acrylic paintings he developed to illustrate a story set mostly in dark, dank places. Wallace’s picture book story is based on his grandfather’s experiences as a boy working in a coal mine in England. The Cape Breton coal field was still in production at the time this book was published. (Ages 8-11)
CCBC Choices 2000. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000. Used with permission.
James is following in his father's footsteps, and today for the first time he will descend deep into the caves below the Atlantic Ocean to begin to learn the coal miner's work.
The story follows him down into the pit, where the pit ponies live out their lives in the dark. He and his father work on a vein of coal and are just relaxing for lunch when the ceiling begins to collapse. His father is trapped by a falling beam but James manages to free him. Together they manage to dig their way out and join their companions. But everybody knows that tomorrow James, his father, and all the miners will be back down in the mine despite the dangers, for it is the only way they can earn their living.
Beautifully illustrated in an Edward Hopper style, Boy of the Deeps pays homage to the lives of these brave miners and brings the brave lives of miners to children in a vivid concrete way.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.