cover image Lucas Fishbone

Lucas Fishbone

Gregory Maguire. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (34pp) ISBN 978-0-06-024089-9

A girl goes to visit her grandmother, but they are never alone: Lucas Fishbone is there, an imaginary friend of Grandma's who merits his own plate and vegetables from the garden. The seasons change, and Lucas is a part of all their activities: ``We carve a Lucas Fishbone face on the pumpkin.'' Lucas is so interwoven through Grandma's life that the girl ``can see Lucas as if she's drawn his picture in the grass.'' The girl notes that her grandmother talks in rhyme (``Lucas taught me,'' says the lady), but the device is not maintained. Other aspects of this overwritten story--and its academic approach to children's fantasies and fears--may confuse young readers, as well: its pretentious language, odd imagery and ambiguous ending. Lucas Fishbone appears in leonine guise and takes Grandma away--is she dead? It would seem so, and that life continues its cycle as the girl plans to ``make some Lucas Fishbone gingerbread cookies. / And I'll make some rhymes.'' The illustrations are unappetizing, muddy collages of somber fabrics, paint and occasional bits of newspaper. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)