cover image Mike Fink

Mike Fink

Steven Kellogg. HarperCollins Publishers, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07003-8

Kellogg splashes his customary exuberance across this latest tall tale in the series that includes Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. Beginning with the infant Mike running off to join a troupe of acrobatic frogs, the story plays up the childhood exploits of the boy who was to become the King of the Mississippi River Keelboatmen. Dragged back to his family, the ``sturdy and quick'' Mike takes the place of their deceased ox when plowing. Later, ``wrestling with the grizzlies'' hones his physical prowess and prepares him for the rowdy river life. The intrepid hero eventually triumphs over a steam-driven paddle boat in a no-holds-barred, John Henry-like battle. Kellogg's antic style is as engaging as ever, from the charmingly frog-faced hero to the drama and detail crammed into every illustration. Though this is a cleaned-up version of Mike Fink's part-real, part-legend life, it provides a merry introduction to a mythic 19th-century American figure. All ages. (Sept.)