Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 4, 2021

Book Giveaway: THE FISHERMEN, THE HORSE, AND THE SEA by Barbara Joosse

Barbara Joosse has written a new picture book, THE FISHERMEN, THE HORSE, AND THE SEA, illustrated by Renee Graef and published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Barbara has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Barbara and Renee.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Young Lester Smith is part of a fishing family on Lake Michigan. He loves playing on the beach with his little sister, helping Mama with chores, and watching the neighbor’s big horse pull Papa’s fishing boat onto shore. But Lester understands that the lake can be “soft as a kitten one day and terrible as a sea monster the next.” On the autumn equinox of 1895, a wicked storm rolls into Port Washington, damaging a schooner on the lake and putting the lives of its two crewmen in danger. Will Lester, his family, and the horse save the day?

This beautifully illustrated children’s book based on a true story recounts a dramatic rescue on Lake Michigan and introduces young readers to Lester Smith and his family, who founded Port Washington’s long-running and beloved Smith Bros. Fish Shanty. Educational materials including definitions, an illustrated map of Lake Michigan, and short biographies of the story’s featured characters supplement this engaging story for elementary-age readers.


Three years ago, I moved to a little harbor town nestled beside Lake Michigan—Port Washington, Wisconsin. Crusty characters, a
tempestuous lake and moody sky offer delectable material for any writer. But best of all, our history —and identity!— is built on stories. BIG stories, because everything on the lake is big.

Shortly after I moved, my best pal and illustrator, Renee Graef, told me a local story about “Frank the Horse,” who rescued a shipwrecked sailor. I loved the idea of a horse named Frank and headed to our historical society to find out more. But there wasn’t much. Frank wasn’t even the name of the horse. It was the name of the family who owned the horse.

Our locally famous “Smith Brothers” were also featured in the rescue. That was interesting, but ultimately not enough of a story, so I gave up.

But, like a defiant teen, my brain considers ‘no’ an irresistible challenge (Is it possible for your very own mind to have a mind of its own?). So the idea and challenge bunkered itself into my subconscious. In the meantime, I learned more about the Smith family—bigger than life fishermen who built a fishing industry and famed restaurant in Port Washington. They were intrepid, colorful, courageous and loyal, like most fishermen on the great lakes!

Among fishermen, there’s a code: We take care of our own. Papa and Uncle Herbert HAD to rescue the two men. Together they launched their own good boat and bent their backs into the oars.

I discovered that fishing runs deep in a family—absorbed through the wet wool of a fisherman’s sweater:

Soon Papa and Uncle Herbert filled the doorway. Lester and Evelyn rushed into big arms, pressing their noses into woolen sweaters that smelled of the men, the fish and the sea.

And that fishermen are superstitious:

On the equinox, the day is exactly as long as the night. For people who work on the land, it’s a time of harvesting crops, pressing apples into cider, and gazing at the moon. But for those on the sea, it’s a time of worry. They believe wicked storms are brewed when the sun crosses the equator. A year later, I woke up with an idea. The Frank horse wasn’t enough of a story . . . but what if the protagonist’s role was shared by three different characters? A horse, the fishermen and the sea?!

I rushed to my computer and typed out the first lines of my book:
Lester was the son of a son of a fisherman.
He knew Lake Michigan could be soft as a kitten one day,
and terrible as a sea monster the next.

I wanted to work with the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, but that meant the book required meticulous research, so I headed once again to the historical society archives. What I found, mostly, was newspaper accounts. But newspapers from 1895 were more about spinning a good yarn than they were about stating the facts. They were colorful, but unreliable. However, there were several accounts that had direct quotes from Delos Smith (“Papa” in the story), so his words became my gold standard. Besides, you just can’t make up a line like this:

“By gol, I dream about that Frank horse sometimes yet.”

In addition, I worked with Lloyd Smith, son of Lester (the boy in the story). Lloyd checked over my notes and drafts, and recorded changes in a spidery cursive. But the most important research was simply living by the lake, walking the harbor every day, witnessing the sudden, furious storms and hearing tales from Cap’n Dan, the charter boat captain, and the fishermen who line the dock. I realized I had absorbed the ways of the lake, not just its stories, but its rhythms. Can you hear the rhythm of the swelling waves in this

The boat rode a breaker up and up, then slid out of sight, then appeared again, impossibly small on the swell of a mountainous wave.
Because this is a big true story, I requested a beefy back matter: maps, factoids about the lake, details and photographs of the Smiths etc. Later, along with the Wisconsin Historical Society, I created a classroom discussion guide. There’s nothing like a big, true sea tale to take the dusty and musty out of history!!

Since moving to Port Washington, I’ve written a total of four stories that cast the sea as a character. All of them reflect my lessons of the lake. Big stories told in a resonant, storyteller’s voice. Lyrical stories with a satisfying conclusion—a hint of the sun, peeking from the clouds after the storm.

In time, Lester grew into a man, a man with a family, a fisherman brave and strong—just like his father and grandfather. But he never forgot the story of the fishermen, the horse and the sea.


Barbara M. Joosse is an American children’s writer. She has been writing for children for over thirty years. She has published fifty-seven books in 29 different languages for children, both picture books and chapter books. Her book titled, Mama, Do You Love Me? has sold over 3 million copies. Through her writing, she aspires to find the things that are the same, and the things that are different, between us all.

She has toured worldwide to promote her books, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages and attended college in Wisconsin, first at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She attended University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1977-80, taking creative writing classes. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Council for Wisconsin Writers.


Renée Graef is an award-winning illustrator who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in art. She has illustrated over 80 books for children, including the Kirsten series in the American Girl collection and many of the My First Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Renée worked as a creative director for the Little House program at Harper Collins for five years and enjoyed traveling to the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites.

Renée has also illustrated classics such as The Nutcracker and My Favorite Things, as well as books about American icons: Mount Rushmore and Paul Bunyan. She has worked on books/cookbooks for Lidia Bastianich (of PBS’s Lidia’s Italy). Renée’s most recent alphabet books are on timekeeping and on lighthouses of the Great Lakes. Renée worked with the Getty Museum in Los Angeles on Thèrése Makes a Tapestry, a historical fiction highlighting the weaving of tapestries during the 1670’s in Paris.

Ms. Graef’s accomplishments have been honored by the Society of Illustrators-Los Angeles and the State of Wisconsin’s House of Representatives, among other groups and her work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows. Renée splits her time between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Los Angeles, California.

Barbara, thank you for sharing your new picture book with us. You words and Renee’s illustrations make me the feel the ebb and the flow and rhythm of the lake. It’s a beautiful book. Can’t wait to read the tales of the lake. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Beautiful! I am fascinated and want to read this book. Thanks for sharing with us, Barbara!

    I tweeted this and I follow by email, Kathy. 🙂


  2. What a beautiful book, inside and out! Best of success to you both. Lynne Marie (Newsletter Subscriber).


  3. Reblogged this on The World as our Classroom and commented:
    A great book to read with my little Chicago baby boy someday!


    • Hannah, I hope you will see this, since I have not been able to connect with you. Did you know you won Whole Whale by Karen Yin. I need your address in order to send you your book. Please send it to me at Kathy(dot)temean(at)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was so interesting! I am a southern transplant to Chicago and even got engaged by Lake Michigan. Favorite part was where your very own mind can have a mind of its own—funny and relatable.

    Reblogged, tweeted, and I am an email subscriber.


  5. This sounds like such a great story! I grew up on the other side of Lake Michigan and love the lake.


  6. As a kid who visited Door County every summer, stopping on the way at Smith Brothers, this is a must read book! Gorgeous illustrations! (I’m a subscriber, too)


  7. Love a story about the big lake (even if it is the Wisconsin side!) Going to request this one at my local library.


  8. I loved reading about the way the lake guided your writing and the research journey you took. This looks like an amazing picture book that will catch the eye of both children and adults. The illustrations are beautiful! Congratulations, Barbara and Renee!

    I’m a subscriber.


  9. This looks like a beautiful, exciting story to experience! Can’t wait to do that. Congratulations!


  10. There is something about the sea that pulls at all of us, perhaps because it was our first home. This looks like a wonderful book!


  11. This looks wonderful. It’s so fun to see places you’re familiar with in books. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a super day!!


  12. Oh, my, this looks like a glorious book. That cover is incredible. Thanks for the fascinating post. I can’t wait to read this book. I tweeted about the give away and I am a subscriber.


  13. I love narrative nonfiction for children and historical fiction. I often wish I’d seen more of it when I was a child or when my kids were very young. Thanks for sharing this gorgeously illustrated story–can’t wait to read it! I’m a subscriber and I tweeted.


  14. My favorite vacations have been on the shores of Lake Michigan. this book is so beautiful and I can’t wait to read it. I’m an email subscriber and shared:


  15. Looking forward to getting your new book for my granddaughter.


  16. I shared on Pinterest, Twitter, and FB. It looks gorgeous. They make a great team!


  17. This sounds like a fantastic book. I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I have seen first hand the beauty and, at times, fierceness of Lake Michigan. Can’t wait to read this story. Congratulations to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This book is STUNning, and I LOVE the fact that both Barbara and Renee are directly connected with Wisconsin. ALL of it is so special ❤ Twitter and Facebook sharing 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This book is beautiful! My kids would love it! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Congratulations Barbara in bringing this intriguing fish tale to life. Yes, kids today need to hear the wacky ways things were done over a hundred years ago. I love hearing about unusual places in the USA. Good luck with your writing journey. I will post on FB and Twitter for two extra chances to win a copy of this true tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This is awesome information! Thank you Barbara!

    Liked by 1 person

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