Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's A Whopper!

On many a summer or fall morning in those wee hours before dawn I can vividly remember hearing my Dad's whispered, "Margie, do you still want to go fishing? It's time to get up."  Some days it was harder than others to rouse myself, but I never missed a chance to be out on the lake with Dad.  In my tenth year one such trip will never be forgotten.

It has to do with trolling, letting out too much line, a huge small-mouth bass and a boatload of patience on my Dad's part.  What Dad was able to do with that fish is...well another story altogether.  When I was finely able to read David Shannon's newest title, Jangles: a BIG fish story (The Blue Sky Press, October 2012), I was transported back in time to a day laden with wonderful memories and laughter.

When the sun goes down and the weather's just right, Big Lake gets smooth as glass and a thin mist whispers across it.

It's when the lake's surface is just so, one might catch a glimpse of its famous resident, an elusive trout named Jangles.  As a boy sits in front of the stone fireplace in their cabin a tale unfolds, told by his fisherman father who has just taken out his tackle box.  Heard before, it's when the father was a boy but on this night the tallness of the story defies belief...or does it?

Jangles is a trout of gigantic proportions. You can always hear him coming; having escaped being caught so many times lures of all shapes and sizes hung along his massive jaws.  He has an appetite to match his size snatching unsuspecting eagles from their roosts and the careless beaver who got too close.  He is not without heart though, rescuing a baby from drowning.  What a fish!

Trying to snag Jangles using whole turkeys for bait or dynamite never works out well.  Unaware his boat has drifted to the center of the lake, one evening the boy's father felt something on the end of his line.  It is another fishing rod.

As he is reeling in the line on that rod, he could see a lure rippling through the water as it neared the boat. What he sees next frightened him---a large dark shadow and the unmistakable sound of lures jangling.  He hardly dared to breath.

In a blink of an eye Jangles has taken that bait, pulled the boy over the side of the boat and down into the watery depths.  The impossible happens, stories as old as time are told, and a boy rides back to his boat.  A mistake is nearly made before right reigns with a twist, a twist that is storytelling perfection.

David Shannon writes with the flair in the grand tradition of storytellers of old; spinning a yarn so unbelievable you find yourself wondering if it might not be true.  Hooking readers with the first sentence, painting in our minds the two, father and son, seated before the fireplace and the words "once upon a time", though unspoken, are understood.  Humor, simile, alliteration and descriptive details add to this whale of a tale.  Jangles becomes a character every reader wants to met.

When given the perspective upon viewing of the massive fish spread across the two pages of the dust jacket and book case, there is little doubt in the reader's mind as to the enormity of this story.  Using lures to create the letters for Jangles plus the trout pictured on the boy's ball cap on the title page add to the overall "fishiness" of what lies ahead for readers.  For this story Shannon chooses to use oils rather than acrylics on all his two-page spreads throughout the book.

This use of oils coupled with his color palette lend a special level of emotion to his telling.  The details in the surroundings, clothing, style of the boats and fishing lures, not to mention the characters' facial expressions, gives the story a sense of history, an air of mystery and humor.  By continually shifting from close-up to panoramic or looking down upon a specific scene, readers feel as though they can at any time, if they so choose, step right into the pages.  Two of my favorite visuals are a close-up of the boy hooking the fishing rod, bringing it out of the water and gazing at it in amazement and the other is of Jangles' huge tail taking up most of the two pages, a full moon lighting the sky as the boy stands waving in his boat.

Jangles: a BIG fish story written and illustrated by David Shannon is one catch you won't want to let get away.  It's a keeper through and through.  As a terrific group read aloud or a tale to be loved by two, this book is better than best, ahead of the rest.  If you can locate a copy of Steamboat Annie & the Thousand Pound Catfish by Catherine Wright with illustrations by Howard Fine, it would pair nicely with this book.  I'd be willing to bet the fish and fishing books will fly off the shelves after readers hear this story.  As for me, I'm dreaming of being ten again.

This is a link to an interview with David Shannon about Jangles.  This is a link to the book trailer for Jangles.  If you are considering an author study of David Shannon here is a listing of his books with a short biography.  A series of interviews by David Shannon can be viewed by following this link.

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