by Philip Roy
- Autumn 2008
- print ISBN 978-1-55380-058-3
- ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-145-0
- 5-1/4″ x 7-5/8″ Trade Paperback, 254 pages
- Young Reader Novel – Ages 9 to 12
Submarine Outlaw takes young adult readers on a unique journey when Alfred, a young boy who wants to be an explorer — not a fisherman, as his family demands — teams up with a junkyard genius to build a submarine that he sails around the Maritimes. The book takes the reader through the hands-on process of submarine construction into the world of real ocean navigation, replete with a high-seas chase, daring rescue and treasure hunting.
Children will identify with Alfred’s desire for an adventurous life and the sense of empowerment that comes with building his own submarine and operating it independently. They will also love the unusual crew — a rescued dog and a quirky seagull. The First Prize Winner of the Atlantic Writers Competition, Submarine Outlaw shows how any great goal in life takes a good deal of patience, determination and hard work. But also how hard work on one’s dream becomes an act of joy.
“Philip Roy’s Submarine Outlaw is a wildly imaginative story of adventure full of surprises and fast paced, yet there is also wisdom and insight to be found here.” —Lesley Choyce
I never dreamed of being an outlaw.
Growing up in Dark Cove, a tiny fishing village in northern
Newfoundland, I dreamed of far away places and exciting
adventures. My grandfather thought differently. He told
me I’d be a fisherman when I grew up, just like everybody
“What do you do exactly?” I asked.
“Well . . . we get up early,” he said. “That’s the first thing.
And we have fish for breakfast. That’s always a good idea.
Then we go down to the wharf and start the motors and
check the oil and discuss the weather and decide where to
fish that day.”
“And then we go out and fish.”
“How long do you fish?”
“All day. Then we come back, put the fish in the ice house,
hang up the nets, clean up the boats and go home.”
“Then we have supper. Usually fish. Sometimes fish cakes.
Once in a while your grandmother makes a great fish stew.”
“Then what do you do?”
“We sit around the kitchen and talk about the day.”
“Oh . . . the weather, the sea, how many fish we caught
“And the next day?”
“The next day’s the same.”
“And the next?”
“The same. It’s pretty much always the same. You’ll see
soon enough. Don’t worry, you’ll make a good fisherman.
It’s in your blood.”
All night I tossed and turned. In the morning I went to see
“I don’t want to be a fisherman,” I said.
“What? Of course you do. It’s in your blood.”
“I don’t think it’s in my blood. I can’t feel it.”
My grandfather laughed. “It’s not something you can feel. It just is.”
“But I feel something else in my blood.”
“Do you now? What’s that?”
“I think I am an explorer.”
“Gee, I think everything is pretty much explored already.”
“I think so.”
“The whole world?”
“Yup, I think so. Except maybe the ocean.”
I went down to the beach and skipped some rocks and
stared at the ocean. It didn’t make sense to be an explorer if
everything had already been explored. But surely there were
jungles never seen before. And deserts. Surely there were
mountains no one had climbed and plains no one had
crossed and islands no one had set foot upon.
Surely there were creatures no one had ever seen — like
three-legged beasts and seven-legged bugs. After all, if a
snake had one leg, a monkey two, a dog four, a starfish five,
a ladybug six and an octopus eight, why wouldn’t there be
creatures with three and seven legs? I mean, there were
birds that swam under water, fish that flew, pigs that lived
underground and frogs that lived in trees. Who could say
that everything had been discovered? Besides, my grandfather
was only a fisherman, not an explorer. Perhaps only
an explorer could believe in things not yet found.
I climbed the hill, crossed the woods and passed the
junkyard. It was owned by Ziegfried, an angry man, twice
the size of the biggest fisherman. It was said he was so mean
he couldn’t even keep a junkyard dog — they were too afraid
of him. I always wondered how he stayed in business if he
was so mean. But the junkyard was a treasure-hunter’s paradise.
I could stare at it through a hole in the fence for hours.
I wandered over to the fence to take a peek. There, in the
midst of piles of junk, I saw something that would change
my life. I couldn’t see the whole of it, just one corner, but it
was round, smooth, black and beautiful. A submarine! A
small one. I twisted my head to get a better look. I moved
to another crack in the fence but it wasn’t any better. In desperation
I pulled the board back and forth, until it came
away from the fence altogether. Now I could see, but there
were still piles of junk in the way. I poked my head through
and looked around. It was dead silent. Not a soul in sight. I
squeezed through the fence and crept across the junkyard
towards the submarine.
“Halt!” boomed a voice. “Or I’ll blow you to smithereens!”
I froze. “Please don’t shoot me!”
I turned my head just enough to see that the gun Ziegfried
was holding was actually a broom.
“What the heck are you doing?” he yelled. “This is private
property. Get out quick or I’ll blow you to smithereens!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just wanted to take a closer look at
“Submarine? What submarine? There’s no submarine
here, boy. You must be dreaming. Now, hit the road!”
I started towards the fence. Turning, I pointed to the submarine.
He looked over.
“What? That? That’s no submarine. That’s just an old oil
tank. Boy, you’ve got some imagination. Hah!”
I stared at the tank. It had looked so much like a submarine.
I climbed out through the fence, but my imagination
got the better of me and I stuck my head back in.
“What would it take to turn it into a submarine?”
“What? Turn that old tank into a submarine?”
Ziegfried made the strangest face. His brow tightened,
his eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted to one side as his
brain went to work.He began to list off things it would take.
“Well . . . a motor, for starters. Maybe a light diesel
“Like a boat engine?”
“No . . . too noisy and heavy. A submarine has to be
I nodded, though I really had no idea.
“Then . . . a keel, rudder, stabilizing fins, portal, propeller.
Ai yi yi.”
He rubbed his forehead.
“Let’s see . . . batteries, sonar system, depth gauges, insulation,
air compressors, sleeping quarters, heating, air-conditioning.
Heavens . . . !”
He stared at the tank feverishly while his mind continued
to count what was needed.
I stepped back in.
“How long would it take?”
The question broke his concentration, and he had to
start all over again.
“Oh. Let’s see . . .”
There was a long pause. And then, “Three years. Maybe
My heart sank. I would be fifteen then. It seemed like a
lifetime.Who could wait so long?
“Or longer,” he said. “It depends.”
“On many things.”
I suddenly realized how foolish I had been. I had thought
an old tank was a submarine, or could become one in just a
few months. It was the first time I realized I had been completely
unrealistic. Nothing had ever made me feel so much
like a child before.Now I had to wonder about my other beliefs.
Were they unrealistic too? Should I just accept becoming
a fisherman like my grandfather? Before I could think
about it too much, Ziegfried said something wonderful.
“Well . . . I need to put some things down on paper.You’d
better come back tomorrow.”
“Come back tomorrow?”
He nodded and walked away, deep in thought.
I couldn’t believe it. I climbed back through the fence.
Suddenly something occurred to me. I stuck my head inside
“My name is Alfred.”
“I can’t pay you anything,” I yelled.
Without turning around, he yelled back, “I can’t pay you
Philip Roy’s Submarine Outlaw Series:
Reviews & Awards:
- First Prize, Atlantic Writers Competition
Shortlisted for the Red Maple, Diamond Willow, Hackmatack, Ann Connor Brimer, Rocky Mountain & Langley Awards
Winner of Silver Medal, ForeWord Book of the Year Award
Selected for Best Books for Kids & Teens
“Adults will appreciate the underlying theme of having to work for what you want, and take responsibility for your actions . . . [G]ive it to the right student and he’ll soon have his friends on board. It is exactly the sort of book all my brothers would have loved when they were kids.” —Teresa Bateman, Goodreads
“Submarine Outlaw is a lovely story . . . Recommended.” —CM Magazine
“Submarine Outlaw is a fast paced, adventure novel that leaves you wanting more. . . . I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.” —What If? Magazine
“a refreshing Canadian novel about following a dream.” —Resource Links
“a terrific and uniquely imaginative premise for an Atlantic Canada novel for kids.” —The Chronicle Herald
“Submarine Outlaw is so well written it is totally believable. Dramatic and touching. Highly recommended!” —Hi-Rise Newspaper
“Highly recommended!” —Recently Read
“In each story in the series, Alfred learns about a different part of the world and learns a little more about himself and responsibility. A coming of age story set in a submarine. Too awesome. Good for boys, good for middle-grade and above, good for everyone who likes adventures.” —Kim Aippersbach