cover image Higgins Bend Song and Dance

Higgins Bend Song and Dance

Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Jaqueline Briggs Martin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-67583-0

Although everyone agrees that Oscar the catfish can't be caught, single-minded Simon Henry swears that he'll sleep in his boots until he has Oscar dangling from his fishing pole. As Simon tries his familiar ""sure-fire, steal-proof recipe,"" the slippery fish eludes him, and he promises that if he doesn't catch Oscar he'll dance with his fishpole at Potato Kelly's Friday night potluck, or sing with a bullfrog, or eat his socks. While Oscar the catfish--baited by Simon's smelly sock--wins the fishing pole tug of war, Simon ends up happily winning the heart of Potato Kelly, owner of the local bait and tackle shop. Martin's dryly told tall fish tale is well matched by Sneed's watercolor paintings of elongated figures and inventive perspectives (one double-spread pictures Oscar's underbelly with Simon floating above the surface). But neither emphasizes the kinds of details in the story that children might find humorous or interesting. The Grinch-like story of a man who ""didn't smile one day out of seven"" and finally laughs out loud when his fish gets away, is told so digressively and the characters are rendered so subtly, that young readers are likely to miss the levity of the story completely. Adults who love to fish, on the other hand, will be caught up--hook, line and sinker. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)