A Webquest

Rodman Philbrick was born in Boston in 1951.  Being raised with his three younger brothers among the salty residents of the Atlantic coast certainly explains his familiarity with the sea and its denizens.  The authenticity is furthered by the fact that in his later years, he worked as a shipbuilder.  He was an English major at the University of New Hampshire, but dropped out his sophomore year to help open a pub.  Adding to his authenticity for The Young Man and the Sea, he later worked as a carpenter, boat builder, and mold maker.  Alongside these blue-collar professions, he worked on his writing skills, finally getting his first novel published in 1978.  In 1980, he married his wife, editor and writer Lynn Harnett.


Philbrick's writings are very diverse, ranging from detective stories, science fiction, and realistic fiction taken from his own life experiences to graphic novels, short stories, and screenplays.  His most widely known work, Freak the Mighty, is based on a kid he knew growing up.  In 1998, it was adapted into a screenplay, becoming the film The Mighty.  His novels for young adults also include The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds, REM World, The Fire Pony, Max the Mighty, and The Last Book in the Universe.


But you're here for the webquest, aren't you?  Thought so.  Here are the steps:

1.  Read the Book Summary

2.  Look at the links, keeping in mind the story's themes, events, and characters

3.  Answer the quiz questions in a Word document

4.  Visit the rubric site to see how you will be graded

Email the creators of this webquest: 


Book Summary of Rodman Philbrick's The Young Man and the Sea

Twelve year old Samuel "Skiff" Beaman, Jr. is a determined young man trying to survive after his mother's recent death and his father's subsequent depression.  Skiff is forced to become an adult as he desperately tries to get his father to get back into the family fishing business.

Skiff raises the Mary Rose after it sinks with the help of a kindly old man, Mr. Woodwell.  Amos Woodwell instructs Skiff on how to raise the boat, overcoming many construction-related adversities.  Once done, Skiff and Amos proceed to do the necessary repairs, but neither Skiff nor his father have the money to repair the diesel motor.  Overhauling the engine will cost five thousand dollars!  Young Beaman decides to use his ten foot skiff to earn the money trapping lobsters.  His lobster trapping business is soon sabotaged by Tyler Croft, a rich kid bully who does not like Skiff because his family is poor.  Samuel is discouraged but does not give up. 

One day, while at the marina, he sees an amateur fisherman who caught a large bluefin tuna, which can sell for over a hundred thousand dollars.  This gives Samuel a brilliant idea.  He makes plans to head out to sea in his ten foot skiff with a borrowed harpoon from Mr. Woodwell.  He will hunt the great bluefin tuna!

Twenty five miles out to sea, he runs into thick fog and realizes that he had forgotten to take a fog horn.  He makes the best of his situation by putting out baits for the tuna, but he is soon ready to head home after he realizes his foolish lack of preparation.

When it seems that all hope is lost, bluefin tunas are attracted to his bait.  After several attempts resulting in exhaustion, he manages to harpoon a large size tuna.

Once he harpoons the tuna, he is thrown overboard and nearly drowns.  Skiff manages to climb back aboard his small skiff, and is taken on a Nantucket Sleigh Ride until the tuna tires out.

Now he is able to tow his tuna back to shore, but runs out of gas.  His only option is to row the boat back to shore.  He faces a fierce internal battle of alternating doubt and hope, just like Hemingway's Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea.  Can his weary arms manage to tow the priceless beast of a fish back to shore?  Throughout the whole ordeal, Skiff hears his mother's voice in his head, telling him to not give up and live by three rules:  1.  Think smart, 2. Speak true, and 3. Never give up.

This story is about courage, survival, and the adventure of deep sea fishing off the coast of Maine.


Interesting Links 

Check out each one of these links and read the information they contain.  Pay attention because there is a question relating each link to The Young Man and the Sea on the quiz.

  1. Read James Blasingame's interview with Rodman Philbrick, taken from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.
  2. This site references the value and prestige associated with bluefin tuna, as well as its effect on the tuna population.
  3. Lobster trapping is very important to Maine's economy.  This site details the activity's history, importance, and culture.
  4. Mudworms made Skiff's task of boat repair a little bit difficult.  Read more about these marine menaces here.
  5. Skiff's father struggled with depression after the death of his wife.  Learn more about depression and its symptoms at this site.
  6. Watch this animated video about the Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's novella to which Philbrick's title is an homage.
  7. This link has lots of great facts about Maine, the setting for The Young Man and the Sea.



Using the links and your knowledge of The Young Man and the Sea, answer these questions in paragraph form (paying attention to the requirements on the rubric page.

1.  What are the ways you can see the author's life intersecting with this story?  How do you think his experiences effected how he wrote the book, where he set it, and how he developed the characters?

2.  What is the current state of the bluefin tuna population?  How does the value and prestige of this impressive fish affect the biology, diversity, and ecology of the coastal Maine area?  What are the implications over over-fishing or amateur fisherman trying to catch a $100,000 trophy?

3.  Skiff's entry into the lobster trapping business was fairly non-traditional.  How is his introduction different from historical tradition?  How would Tyler Croft's behavior be viewed by fisherman who run lobster traps?  How is the history of lobster trapping reflected in the story?

4.  Why are mudworms harmful?  How do they create a nuisance to fisherman and boat owners?  What other destructive behaviors do they engage in besides what they did to Skiff?

5.  Look at this site on depression.  Which of Skiff's father's behaviors match with the symptoms of depression?  Should Skiff's father have sought help to overcome his suffering?  Why or why not?

6.  The title of Philbrick's novel is an homage to an earlier work by Ernest Hemingway.  Based on the short clip from The Old Man and the Sea, what similarities or differences can you deduce between Hemingway's story and Philbrick's? 

7.  The Young Man and the Sea takes place in coastal Maine.  Based on these facts, how good of a job did Philbrick do in capturing the spirit of the state?  What relevant facts from the webpage showed up in the book?  Would you have added anything if you were the author?

Rubric for Literature Review Webquest

Your answers for the quiz will be out of thirty-five (35) points.  Twenty-five (25) of the points will be for the quality of your writing based on the six traits model and the other ten (10) will be for the content used in the answer as well as the justification you provide for your response.

The following six trait rubric will be used to assess your writing.  Consider whether or not your responses address each area of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. 


Outstanding (5)

Developing (3)

Beginning (1)


Narrow, manageable, fresh, answers creatively

Fairly broad, reasonably clear, attempted support, unanswered questions

Searching, unclear, restating, flat, disconnected


Flows smoothly, connected transitions

Fair transitions, some disconnection, some support for theme

Rambling introductions, development and conclusions


Resonates, risk taking, textured tone, personal

Pleasing and earnest, one or two surprises, obscure in some places

Monotone or repetitive, risk-free, impersonal

Word Choice

Accurate, specific, pictures, lively verbs, obvious precision

Generally adequate and correct, colorful attempts, passive verbs, occasionally refined, some hackneyed phrases

Vague, boring, limited, clichéd, words do not work

Sentence Fluency

Enhanced meaning, varied structure and length, cadence, tempo, beat

Routine but sufficient, some variety, hunt for clues, some stiffness and awkwardness

Choppy, rambling, unnatural, discordant, non-expressive openings for other traits


Generally correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization. Sound paraphrasing

Sufficient spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization. Not serious problems with grammar

Frequent errors with spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization. Lack of paraphrasing, unclear reading

This rubric will assess the content of your answers and the


Outstanding (5)

Developing (3)

Beginning (1)


Several references to the book as well as the website provided in the links area.  References make sense in the context of the response.

Some references to the book and websites.  Most references make sense in the context of the response.

Little or no reference to the book or websites.  References made have nothing to do with the response and are irrelevant.

Quality of Response

December 19, 2005ass="MsoNormal">There is an obvious link between the information in the answer and the question asked.

Information presented in the answer may diverge from what the question is asking. 

Information does not address the issues in the question.  Little or no apparent effort.