Hugh Montgomery, Author, Nick Poullis, Illustrator , illus. by Nick Poullis. Candlewick $16.99 (216p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1902-2

Between the covers of this handsome volume, brooding pen-and-inks twine around an epic poem that delivers a spine-tingling tale of treachery and redemption, pirates and ghost ships and an eerie mystery along England's southern coast. British author Montgomery, who originally self-published the poem, tells a tale that sails across the centuries and centers on a greedy fisherman who betrays his village to marauding Vikings. In return, the fisherman is cursed with immortality, and the only way to escape his fate is to accomplish three tasks: "to pay back death, he'd save a life./ Then rescue one who'd been betrayed./ Not sell—but help the local folk/ By giving some great wealth away." The obstacles in the fisherman's path provide the fodder for a swashbuckling yarn. Montgomery's approach, which is unusual and ambitious, may work better as a read-aloud for some audiences, particularly as it's a bit slow going until The Arctic Tern leaves its slip. But those who remain aboard will eventually be rewarded with a page-turner boasting such characters as the murderous pirate Mad Dog Morgan, apt similes ("The hair on his head was as thin as his smile") and crackling passages ("The boat forged on through ice-blue waters,/ The warming sun was climbing now,/ And brilliant beams bounced off the drops/ That splintered from the thrusting bow"). Intermittent changes in rhyme scheme and scanning provides some variety; the gripping "Bruno's Tale" episode may remind some adults of the pacing of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Ages 9-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Hardcover - 216 pages - 978-0-7445-9251-1
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