Fish Tale: Or the Little One That Got Away

Leo Yerxa, Author
Leo Yerxa, Author Groundwood Books $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-88899-247-5
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In this syrupy, quasi-spiritual tale, a naive young fish embarks on a quest to learn about ""demons and gods, hooks, cooks and fishing rods."" ""Some said that you had to get hooked to get high or life would pass you by,"" raps the minnow-size narrator of this oversize book. So, encouraged by a streetwise but evil fish named Jack, the little fish takes the bait and comes face-to-face with a fisherman, whose scowling face resembles a Japanese Noh mask. Fortunately, the ""Small Fry"" is still ""too small to fry,"" and he survives the near-death experience. Later the little fish learns that Jack ""had been wanted by the authorities in several ponds for his involvement in getting other fish hooked,"" ending this allegory on its most conspicuous anti-drug note. Yet Yerxa's (Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall) poor choice of words (the fish ""lay in bed thinking"") and cliches (""swimming in a sea of confusion"") get in the way of his moral lesson. In his illustrations, he prefers blank negative space to his more evocative algae-green washes, which he brightens with slanting golden sunbeams. Crowning most of the text blocks, a bumper-sticker-hokey silhouette of two fishermen in a rowboat also mars this fish-eye view of addiction and religious faith. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
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