cover image Fishing for Methuselah

Fishing for Methuselah

Roger Roth. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027592-1

In Roth's (The Sign Painter's Dream) tall fish tale set in the north country, the prize goes not for the mythical creature's capture, but for the truce it brings about between two bickering buddies. Two burly woodsmen, Ivan and Olaf, have been best friends ""since they were no bigger than bear cubs."" Yet theirs is a friendship with a competitive edge: each tries to best the other in all pursuits, from arm wrestling to wood chopping to, of course, ice fishing. Their incessant squabbling comes to a head at the annual Winter Carnival's fishing contest on frozen Moosehead Lake, where both are determined to catch the enormous, elusive fish Methuselah. In their quest, the two venture out far past the other fishermen, onto perilously thin ice. The gargantuan fish decides to teach the headstrong pals a lesson, which leads the pair to realize the folly of their ways. Roth's folksy, in spots humorous, art ably depicts both the frosty setting and the warmth underlying the companions' gruff demeanor. However, some wordy prose (""Going that far from shore was considered much too dangerous. The ice was very thin, and some patches of the lake weren't frozen over at all!"") ultimately makes this tall tale a bit short on pizzazz. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)