Artscape
6:06 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Artscape: Summer Reading For Young Adults

It’s the summer reading season, and for this month’s Artscape we explore books for young adults starting with what some kids at the Cumberland Public Library plan to read this summer.

Isabella and Sophia Dauphine picking summer reads at the Cumberland Public Library.
Isabella and Sophia Dauphine picking summer reads at the Cumberland Public Library.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Summer Reading Students

Phillip DiDomenico, 10 years old, recommends Frindle by Andrew Clements, which he read during the school year.

Sophia Dauphine, 7 years old, plans to read Diary of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Isabella Dauphine, 9 years old, wants to read Little House on the Prairie, the Laura Ingalls Wilder classic

Sam Millette, 13 years old, wants to read The Long Walk, Stephen King

Philip DiDomenico and his dad at the Cumberland Public Library.
Philip DiDomenico and his dad at the Cumberland Public Library.
Credit Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Those are just a few recommendations from students found poking around the shelves of the Cumberland Library.

Swim That Rock

Now kids looking for a book set in the Ocean State can pick up Swim That Rock, a tale of crime, mystery and redemption written by John Rocco and Rhode Island resident Jay Primiano.  

The book is set in Warren and sends readers out on Narragansett Bay out as far as Block Island. It follows the adventures of Jake Cole, an awkward teen who is clumsy on land, but out on the water, he’s a skilled sailor and quahogger. “He’s every kid in essence he’s the kid you want to be: adventurous, powerful, a little awkward, which everyone can relate to at 14,” said Primiano.

Swim That Rock co-author Jay Primiano points to a location in the book where Jake sells his catch in Warren, RI
Swim That Rock co-author Jay Primiano points to a location in the book where Jake sells his catch in Warren, RI
Credit Catherine Welch / RIPR

We meet Jake at a critical time, his father went missing in a boating accident and now Jake is trying to help his mother save the family diner called “The Riptide.”

“His intent with keeping the Riptide open is to maintain that light, essentially,” said Primiano. “Almost like it was a lighthouse for him, and for his father, he thinks that his father will return.”

The Authors of Swim That Rock

Walking along the streets of Warren, Primiano points out places from his childhood  along with parts of the bay where he and co-author John Rocco raked for quahogs.

Primiano was 19, Rocco was 11 when they met. What’s the old saw, write what you know? Well, Primiano hired Rocco to catch quahogs for the summer in many places where Swim That Rock is set and when he describes his co-author as a young man, he sounds a lot like the book’s main character Jake. “In many ways, John was certainly tall, just like Jake. And John is industrious,” he said. “And remains that way, he’s a powerful force in the picture book industry.”

Powerful indeed, Rocco, a RISD grad, was part of the creative team that created Shrek for Disney and helped design attractions for Epcot. He’s also a winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award for children’s picture books.

How They Wrote The Book

The two came up with the idea to write a book years ago. It started with shooting snippets of stories back and forth in emails and then gleaning and gathering those stories to shape the book. Once the story was mapped out, the two went to work writing their parts. “I’m a little strong writing action, he’s a little stronger with the sentimental elements of the book,” said Primiano, “so we had our strengths, each of us had our strengths.”

The Bad Guys

Every yarn has its bad guy, and Swim That Rock has two: the Captain, who lures Jake with big bucks to help him do some illegal things out on the water, and Delvecchio the crooked DEM clam cop who patrols the bay on the lookout for guys like The Captain.  

Swim That Rock is set in the early 80’s when the bay was getting healthier, allowing the state to open up new areas for quahoggers. Around that time, says Primiano, there was an element in the DEM that Delvecchio’s modeled after.

“Ninety-nine percent of the officers that worked back then were fine, understanding, hardworking people. And there was one percent that were just abominable,” said Primiano. “And perhaps it’s overstated but you have to have a villain in most books, and I’m sure that Delvecchio holds that spot.”

The Italian American Club in Warren, RI is featured in the young adult novel Swim That Rock
The Italian American Club in Warren, RI is featured in the young adult novel Swim That Rock
Credit Catherine Welch / RIPR

Does Jake get caught by Delvecchio while going on late-night illegal runs with The Captian? Can he help save his family’s diner? From one adventure to another Jake grows from a confused boy to a confident young man all during one summer filled with a freedom Primiano said most kids no longer experience.

“We perhaps overprotect our children and ultimately they need to have some experiences as powerful as Jake’s had, so they can become whole and they can live full lives,” he said.

A bit of a spoiler alert: Jake survives his summer and the book ends with the first day of high school. Primiano said a sequel is on the way, so maybe the question now is will Jake survive high school.