Thursday, October 18, 2012

She Called Him Papa

We often celebrate the accomplishments of single mothers, and so we should. Their roles are difficult. The paths of single dads are also rocky and steep.

FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER, Patricia Nikolina Clark, Bridgeline Books, 2012

This is not a contemporary story, but it rings with the truth of family bonds that bind generations.

The year is 1922. 11 year old Katia longs for a life much different from the life of her mother who died four years ago. Katia wants to stay in school, to read, to write poetry, to become a teacher. Her papa has decided she should stay home and care for the family which includes five year Annie who, until recently, lived with relatives.

Although the rugged setting for this novel is harsh, it is filled with promise. In the early 1900s hardy immigrants from Yugoslavia (now Croatia) settled in California on the coast north of San Francisco. They came for the same reason so many came during those years, to build a better life for their families. Inspired by her mother’s life in the richly described coastal area now preserved as the Point Reyes National Seashore, the author drew upon details from lives like her own grandfather who pioneered commercial fishing in Tomales Bay, in a string of sandy coves remembered as “Little Yugoslavia.” Armed with firm religious beliefs and fishing skills, these pioneers adapted, survived, raised families, created homes and took root in an isolated area readers will enjoy discovering.

Parents who choose this book for their tweens and young teens will appreciate the relationships and interactions within this brave family. Katia’s siblings, Papa’s brothers, a distant maternal aunt and her scheming husband, and the impact made by the new school teacher keep the plot spinning but it is the interactions that keep the reader wondering how it will all turn out.

Katia’s struggles as she makes a number of major decisions beyond her ability are authentic. The courage with which she handles each set back reflects the “good stock” from which she has come.

Papa is tough, not rigid. Honest. Caring. In one of her poems, Katia relates the many names by which her father is known in this new land:  Immigrant. Fisherman. Widower. Captain. Hero. She concludes that no name is better for capturing her father’s goodness than the one she calls him, “I called him Papa.”

Patricia Nikolina Clark has been writing for children for more than 20 years. In Fisherman’s Daughter she shares evocative photos from her family albums and pays tribute to the love, faith, and determination that kept the families of her ancestors strong.

I could easily have chosen this book by its cover. Picture me on a sidewalk with a littering of gold and crimson leaves. It’s fall in a small town, any small town which still has an inviting little bookstore and a tinkling bell to announce me. “Just looking,” I say to the owner who pokes his head above a glass case filled with treasures. I amble down the rows of bookshelves and lose myself. When I find Fisherman’s Daughter, the cover alone makes me want to bring it home.

Happily, the promise of the cover is kept by the author and her story. 


  1. Appreciate this head's up Joan.

    It's important for young readers & also for us adults, to read about a community & time in history that we know little about, especially when an insider with authentic connection is telling the tale so well.
    Brava to the author.

    1. Thanks for stopping by,Jan. I just went to your blog and so enjoyed reading about the season of shadows. You make me want to put on my travelin' boots m'friend.

    2. Book Log & it creator are a suportive uplifting bunch.
      I learn so much here & am glad when if my online presence is ever a help.

      For those of Book Log's readers who Twitter it's new to me & I invite your follows @Bkseedstudio


      JG Annino
      blog/site Bookseedstudio
      Twitter @Bkseedstudio

  2. This sounds like a lovely book. I do love historical fiction. Thanks for the review. And you are right about the cover. Enchanting.

    1. Rosi--so nice to hear from another appreciator of historical fiction and covers that intrigue. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Ah, Joan you tease us with talk of the cover. Must be time to add pics to your blog! ; )

    I looked it up on Amazon and oh wow! Gorgeous! I do want to read this.

  4. Ah, Joyce, go back to the review and click on the author's name. You'll discover two other books by the author, too.


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