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Friday, August 30, 2013

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamara Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Porch light.
Bug bite.
Dad and I clean fish tonight.

Scales slick.
Bluegill thick.
Hold the tail. Be steady, quick.

One more.
Mine makes four..."

Leisurely time spent fishing with family will soon a thing of the least until the weekend, or warm fall evenings. Kids are already at school, or going back after the long weekend. Family fishing trips may have to wait until next summer.

In this charming story about such a trip, and using a wide range of poetic forms, Tamara Wissinger offers something entirely original and warmly humorous. It is dedicated to her parents, enthusiastic fishers 'who took their family fishing, and still do.' Obviously, the memories are mostly good ones and worthy of telling. Tell them she does in three voices...Dad, Sam and Lucy.

Sam is squirming with excitement for the much-anticipated fishing trip that he and his father are embarking on in tomorrow's early morning light:

"For fishing tomorrow
it's just us two.
Not Mom, not Grandpa,
                                           not Lucy.
It'll be like playing catch or
painting the garage.
Just Dad and me.

As events unfold, the dreaded Lucy is going to accompany them. Sam is disgusted. Lucy doesn't have any idea about fishing, but she wants to go along and Dad doesn't have the heart to say no. The decision is made, Lucy takes her sweet time getting ready and Sam is about to lose it unless they get going. As luck would have it, Lucy catches all the fish. Well, not quite. After a big tug-of-war, Sam hauls in a catfish. Lucy is full of congratulations. Sam is contrite over his jealousy and behavior, and decides that having Lucy along was not so bad after all.

I am amazed at the variety of poems created to tell this novel in verse. Each poem title is bylined by the poetic form used. In the back matter, Ms. Wissinger tells her readers about The Poet's Tackle Box, about rhyme and rhythm, and about poetry techniques that can be tried. Then, she describes the poetic forms used and finally, adds a bibliography that will give aspiring poets guidance for trying some poetry of their own.

It is great fun. Once I had finished, I went back and read it again. Matthew Cordell has created full-of-fun black and white illustrations that capture the spirit of the fishing trip and the joy of time spent together.


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