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  • Calvin Coconut: Man Trip
  • Written by Graham Salisbury
    Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
  • Format: Hardcover Library Binding | ISBN: 9780385907989
  • Our Price: $15.99
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Calvin Coconut: Man Trip

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Written by Graham SalisburyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Graham Salisbury
Illustrated by Jacqueline RogersAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jacqueline Rogers

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List Price: $6.99

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On Sale: March 13, 2012
Pages: 112 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89797-9
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books
Calvin Coconut: Man Trip Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Calvin and his mom's boyfriend, Ledward, are good friends. When Ledward wins plane tickets, he invites Calvin to fly to Hawaii, the Big Island, for a day, and go deep-sea fishing. Wow! Calvin's never been on a plane, or any boat but his skiff. What a day—Calvin catches his first big fish, an ono. But that's nothing compared to what happens when Ledward hooks a huge and very angry marlin that charges the boat!

Fishing with Ledward opens Calvin's eyes to adventure and to important ideas about respecting nature. 

Excerpt

1

Tossing Bufos

Every time my mom calls me her little man of the house, I slip out the back door and run down to my friend Julio’s. “Man of the house” means: “Time to clean your room,” or “Take out the garbage,” or worst of all, “Cut the grass.”

This time it was the grass.

I glanced at the door.

Mom hooked her finger into the collar of my T-shirt. “Oh no you don’t. You’ve let that grass grow far too long. You need to cut it. Now.”

Dang.

“Aw, come on, Mom, I hate that job.”

“We all have to do things we don’t like. Now, I filled the gas can at the service station. You have everything you need to get that old lawn mower started. Bye.”

I hung my head and made a big show of how hard this was for me. I mean, jeese, I could have been at the beach. “You’re killing me, Mom.”

She pointed her finger. “Go.”

I went out to the garage.

Actually, cutting the grass wasn’t hard. It was just disgusting.

Who wanted to go out there and shred bufos? Bufos are toads, big fat juicy ones. And when the grass got long they came up from the river and dug down into it to sleep. Unless you got down on your hands and knees to look for them, you couldn’t see where they were. But the lawn mower could, and it spat shredded bufo guts all over my feet, every time.

I poured gas into the tank and rolled our cranky mower out into the sun.

It was hot as a frying pan. Nothing moved, except my dog, Streak, who was lounging in the shade under Mom’s car. She lifted her head but didn’t get up.

“Hey,” I said to her. “You want to help?”

Streak yawned and went back to sleep.

“Lazybones.”

I looked out over our front yard and all that grass sloping down to the river that ran by our house. Mom was right; I’d let it grow too long. It was so long I wondered if it was even possible to cut it. Man, I thought, there have to be a hundred toads in there.

I pushed the mower to the edge of the driveway.

“Now’d be a good time to wake up and run for it, bufos,” I said. “That is, if you know what’s good for you.”

I could almost hear them snoring.

Up the street, Julio’s house slept in the Saturday-morning stillness. Julio wasn’t out cutting his grass. Nobody else was out there, either. The place was a ghost town.

I looked back at my dog. “Maybe everyone heard Mom say ‘man of the house’ and ran for it, Streak.”

Who could blame them if they had? Sometimes I got Julio or Willy to take a turn at cutting the grass. They didn’t mind . . . until they got splattered with toad guts. Tito and Bozo came wandering down our street once when I was mowing. They didn’t care about the grass, but they loved the toad guts. “Ho, so gross!” Tito said. “I like it.”

Tito and Bozo were sixth graders at my school. I tried to stay away from them because they liked to cause trouble.

Yeah, well, this lawn mower was trouble. I yanked the pull cord.

The engine spat, shuddered, and died.

I tried again. This time it coughed out a cloud of stinky smoke.

But it stayed on.

I covered my ears. The thing was as loud as six guys on motorcycles, gunning their engines and flexing their tattoos.

Streak got up and loped around to the back of the house. “Oh, great,” I called. “Just leave me here by myself.”

I started mowing by the driveway and inched my way down the slope toward the river. I had to push a foot, then pull back, then push, then pull. Inch by inch. Otherwise the grass would clog the blades and kill the engine.

Things were going fine for about five minutes.

Then, spluuurt!

“Ahh!”

I leaped back, letting go of the mower.

“Dang it!” My bare feet were painted with the remains of some sleeping bufo who never knew what hit him. “I hate this!”

I left the mower growling and ran up to the house to squirt my feet off with the hose.

“I saw that,” Mom said, poking her head out the screen door. “You’ve got to chase all the toads out of the grass first.”

“It’s hopeless, Mom. There are too many, and anyway, it would take me all day. And you can’t see them. The grass is too deep.”

“Calvin. You can’t just chop them up! That’s cruel.” She shook her head and went back inside.

“Yeah, I know,” I mumbled. “I’ll chase them out.”

The ones I could find, anyway.

I killed the engine and left the lawn mower sitting halfway down the slope.

“Dang toads,” I muttered.

But Mom was right. I couldn’t just kill them. And anyway I didn’t want to.

I started searching the grass.

The way I found them was with my feet. They were squishy when you stepped on them. Creepy, but it worked.

“Yuck!” I said, stepping on my first snoring victim.

I reached down and dug him out. He was fat, soft, and ugly. I held him up and looked him in the eye. “This is your lucky day, toady. You live to catch another fly.”

That day when Tito and Bozo watched me, Tito said that if I didn’t like all the guts I should dig out the toads and throw them into the river. “They like the water,” he said. “Throw um high. Like a baseball. They like that, too.”

“No they don’t.” I didn’t believe him.

“Sure they do. Try it and see. They just kick back to shore.”

He was right. They just swam back into the swamp grass.

“Okay, toad,” I said now. “Here you go!”

I tossed the toad in a high arc into the water. It landed with a splat and floated for a few seconds, unmoving. Then it woke up and kicked to shore. How can they like that? I wondered.

I shrugged and started looking for another one.

By the time Ledward drove up in his old army jeep, I’d tossed eight toads into the river. Ledward was my mom’s boyfriend. He was a giant Hawaiian guy who had a banana farm up in the mountains.

Ledward shut the jeep down and got out. He grinned. “You looking for bufos in the grass?”

I nodded. “I gotta get them out so I can cut it.”

I felt around with my foot and found another one. I pulled it out and catapulted it into the river.

Splat!

It took a while to recover.

“Maybe you should carry them down to the water?” Ledward said.

I looked back at him. “Why?”

“Well, that one hit kind of hard. What you’re doing could hurt them. Maybe even kill them. Did you think about that?”

“No.”

“Well . . .”

Ledward studied me a moment, then went into the house.
Graham Salisbury

About Graham Salisbury

Graham Salisbury - Calvin Coconut: Man Trip

Photo © Jeff Pfeffer

I hope what gives my books their sense of authenticity, other than the natural inculcation of the island’s physical and cultural landscape, which ends up in my sentences by osmosis, is my use of language. In Hawaii we often speak what we call pidgin English, a kind of tropical patois. For example, in standard English, one would say, “I am going home.” In Hawaiian pidgin, it would be, “I going home.” A simple thing, but over the course of a novel, it becomes a bigger thing, a part of a character’s being. It resonates. Syntax, too, creates that feeling of authenticity. It comes to me naturally, thank heaven. I don’t have to work at it because I simply hear it. If I had to fake, it I’d be laughed off the face of the earth. So, growing up in the islands was my gift. My writing is just me spewing it back.

As for the work itself, I’m big on certain issues having to do with boys and growing up. I guess this is so because of my own fractured upbringing. Much of who I am is self-imposed. I am my choices, and I have chosen to walk a certain path. Important to me are such qualities as honesty, friendship, honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, work, and passion. Life for anyone is a series of choices, and I hope that fact gets some play in my books. Luckily for me, I have made some good choices. It could have been different. I could have taken pride in the wrong moves, as many boys do. It’s cool to be tough. Beating the spit out of someone is good for the rep. It’s honorable to attack someone who “disrespects” you by, perhaps, accidentally bumping into you (“Hey! You like I broke your face or what?”). Right. I could have fallen into that mindset. But I didn’t, and I lay all credit to that on one man: James Monroe Taylor, my high school headmaster.

At the end of my sixth-grade year, my mom saw the light—she kicked my sorry okole out of the house and sent me to boarding school. It was in the middle of Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was the most precious gift she ever could have given me. I loved it. For the first time in my life, I had something I really, really, really needed: limits. It was like being at boot camp. Mr. Taylor, as part of his training, took us into his home in small groups and lectured us on the good qualities of life, all that stuff that is now so important to me: friendship, honor, etc. Of course, it was my duty at that time to laugh it off. That fat old man was out of his head. But his words stuck, and because they did, whenever I was presented with a sticky situation, I was able to fall back on that foundation and use it to make the better choice. My mother and Mr. Taylor—my hat’s off to both of them.

In my career as an author, I’ve spoken to a bazillion kids, mostly in grades six through eight. It’s been fun, truly. But I had an epiphany one day, and my newest creation, Calvin Coconut, came to be because of it.

I once spoke to a large group of fifth and sixth graders in a huge gymnasium, and was leaving the school, heading down the hall with the teacher who had invited me. “There’s a third-grade teacher here in our school who just loves your books,” she said as we walked, “and she asked me to ask you if you would be willing to just stop by her class and say hi to her kids. They know about you, too, because she read them one of your short stories.”

“Sure,” I said. I’d never spoken to third graders. It might be fun.

Boy, was it.

The third-grade teacher and every one of her students were literally glowing with excitement, having the author in their classroom.

They gathered around, sitting in a semicircle on the floor. I sat in a chair next to the teacher, who reached over and picked up a plate of cookies.

The kids all leaned forward, eyes bright as a thousand suns, rascally twinkles in them.

“Would you like to try one of the cookies we made in class?” she said.

I didn't, but I was on duty. “Uh, sure,” I said.

She pushed the plate closer.

The kids did a magnificent job of stuffing back their giggles as I reached out and picked up a yummy-looking but—I could tell—very fake cookie.

The teacher grinned, and I played along and pretended to bite into it. “Bleecck!” I spat, and the kids roared, as if it were the funniest thing they’d ever seen in their lives.

And that’s what got me: those beautiful, beautiful faces, all looking up at me in pure delight.

I ended up telling them a story of when I got stuck in a mass of mud, a story I love to tell, and they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I left that school a new man, and vowed then and there that someday I was going to expand my writing to include this group. Because I loved those faces and yearn to absorb that energy.

I also wanted to include this younger audience because teachers have told me many, many times that they just can’t get their boys interested in reading. I know of their plight. I was one of those boys. I read only one book on my own in all my elementary school years: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So Calvin Coconut and I have a job to do. Call Calvin Graham Salisbury light, because I’m bringing real-life situations and themes for discussion into every Calvin book, just like I do in my books for older readers. I won’t get heavy, I won’t get edgy, and I won’t be gratuitous. None of this is about me. It’s about every kid out there today who is just like the wandering fool I was. Besides the simple enjoyment of writing, my aim is simple: to build trust and turn boys into lifetime readers.

I finally became a reader at thirty. That’s how hard it is to get some boys to read. I’d like to help change that a bit. Because reading changes everything. Oh yeah.
 
 

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