When a black youngster, Hugh Thomas, goes fishing one morning, Papa-Daddy and Elder Abbajon row up like specters out of the mist. They delight and amaze the boy with tall tales, told in the vernacular, of giant turkeys and snakes, mysterious lamps, and strange happenings on the bayou. When they leave, Hugh Thomas embarks on an outlandish adventure of his own. He catches a million fish (more or less), divides his catch with a grand-pere alligator, again with a pack of pirate raccoons, crows, and finally some trickster cats. When he finally reaches Papa-Daddy and the Elder's houseboat, he has only three fish left, and a tale that surpasses theirs. McKissack understands the elements of good story, and includes just enough detail to make it work. Hugh Thomas accepts fantastic animals with ``an uncertain spirit,'' but tackles the problems they present to him, taking only a moment to wonder at their bizarre emergence from the swamp. He lives in an imaginative world that combines exotic realities of the bayou and slips almost imperceptibly into a fantasy that will bemuse readers as much as it does the boy. The vital, action-filled paintings seem naive at first glance. However, viewers will quickly see that each seemingly careless brush stroke works toward a harmoniously integrated whole. Uninhibited splashes of vivid colors highlight forms, fill the pages, and elicit a joyous emotional response to the dynamic human figures. A radiant debut for a talented illustrator. --Ruth Semrau, Lovejoy School, Allen, TX
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.