cover image Peggony-Po: A Whale of a Tale

Peggony-Po: A Whale of a Tale

Andrea Davis Pinkney, , illus. by Brian Pinkney. . Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-1958-4

The Pinkneys (who collaborated on Duke Ellington ) here shine the spotlight on African-American whalers with an original tall tale set in the 1840s that recalls elements of both Moby Dick and Pinocchio . Carved by his father, Galleon, from a piece of driftwood, young Peggony-Po is named after a sea shanty and given a "beautiful dark complexion with a stain made from pekoe tea." He sets out to hunt the massive whale named Cetus who "loved to smash boats with a single slam of his tail," and who also bit off Galleon's leg. With Paul Bunyan–esque strength, the smiling youngster carries out his self-appointed task in rollicking fashion, at one point braiding a harness of seaweed and riding Cetus around the globe. A flowing narrative evokes the oral tradition, with its folksy tone and homespun similes (e.g., Peggony-Po "was as feisty as a kettle of just-caught fish"). Brian Pinkney's full-color, etched illustrations brim with vigor as wooden boy and whale battle it out against dark, roiling waves. Peggony-Po's ballet-dancer poses, muscular thighs and outstretched arms suggest a nimbleness to match his moxie; his clever plan fells the mighty giant. Readers will yo-ho-ho for this entertaining and imaginative yarn. An author's note describes whalers from Africa and the Caribbean, noting that whaling was an "equalizer of men." Ages 4-7. (Apr.)