Book Reviews

Shannon, David Jangles: A Big Fish Story; written and illus. by David Shannon. Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2012 32p

ISBN 978-0-545-14312-7 $17.99 Ad 5-8 yrs

A child narrator relays with pride and awe the story his father often tells of an encounter with Jangles, a fish “so big he ate eagles from the trees that hung over the lake and full-grown beavers that strayed too far from home.”  Dad’s story gets bigger with each fresh claim, escalating from details of whole turkeys used as bait to dynamite explosions that failed to get much of a rise from Jangles. Dad boasts that he was the one to finally bring the fish to heel (to fin?), hooking him, getting pulled down to his underwater home, listening to Jangles’ stories, and finally flipping him and preparing for the kill.  Jangles talked him out of it, though, and Dad ended up doing the right thing by letting him go.  To prove his story, Dad now offers his offspring a tackle box, filled with lures that once dangled from Jangles’ mouth, as indisputable evidence.  Dad may have pulled one over on his kid, but readers, of course, are far too savvy to fall for this flimflam, which is the whole fun of a tall tale anyhow.  Unfortunately, the story itself is whisper thin, and the gentle moralizing is somewhat out of place in so rollicking a genre.  The densely atmospheric paintings, though, add a touch of intriguing eeriness to a tale that plays out on moonlit lakes and in shadowy depths, and the dynamic compositions are ultimately as memorable as the hyperbole.  EB

Jangles: A Big Fish Story.
Shannon, David (author).  Illustrated by David Shannon.
Oct. 2012. 32p. Scholastic/Blue Sky, hardcover, $17.99 (9780545143127). K-Grade 3.

REVIEW.  First published August, 2012 (Booklist).

Stories about the one that got away are as plentiful as fish in the sea, but leave it to Shannon to distill one into its essence in this picture book. Jangles, named for the jawful of tinkling lures he’s accumulated over the years, “was so big, he ate eagles from the trees that hung out over the lake and full-grown beavers that strayed too far from home.” Locals have tried everything to catch him—from whole-turkey bait to dynamite depth charges—but no one even comes close until a boy (the narrator’s father) snags the monster trout at the end of his line. Jangles pulls the boy out of his boat, dashes him off to his underwater home, and tells him stories about the young days of the world before sending the boy back to the surface. The big reveal of where the tall tale ends and the truth begins ties it all up with the warmth and magic of a fatherly wink. Shannon’s lustrous paintings are packed full of magic-hour hues, and fairly glow right off the pages. A neat bonding story, this will become a fast favorite.  — Ian Chipman

Horn Book Magazine:
Jangles: A Big Fish Story
by David Shannon; illus. by the author
Primary Blue Sky/Scholastic 32 pp.
10/12 978-0-545-14312-7 $17.99 g

Shannon takes the one-that-got-away story and spins it out into a big-fish tall tale as recounted by a father to his son. Jangles, the legendary trout of Big Lake, had “broken so many fishing lines that his huge, crooked jaw was covered with shiny metal lures and rusty old fishhooks of all shapes and sizes. They clinked and clattered as he swam.” (Hence his name.) The over-the-top profile of trout-as-predator (“he ate eagles from the trees that hung out over the lake and full-grown beavers that strayed too far from home”) is tempered by examples of his benevolence (he once saved a baby from drowning) and by the narrator’s own purported childhood encounter with the fish. Jangles had transported the awestruck youth down to his cave at the bottom of the lake, then proceeded to tell him incredible stories. After such a memorable encounter, who could then catch the storyteller and fry him up? (The lad considers it but, in the end, he does the right thing.) Working with a palette as dark and evocative as the depths in which his elusive character dwells, Shannon provides formidable close-up views of battle-scarred  Jangles, a larger-than-life character with a memorable tale. CHRISTINE M. HEPPERMANN

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine [or Guide, as applicable] by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
SHANNON, David. Jangles: A Big Fish Story. illus. by author. 32p. Scholastic/Blue Sky. Oct. 2012. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-14312-7.

Gr 2-4–Shannon reinvents the “big fish story” with this creepy tall tale, framed as a story the narrator’s father told him about “the biggest fish anyone had ever seen.” “Jangles was so big he ate eagles…,” but not kids. One day, as a child, he drifted out and reeled in Jangles, who pulled him to the bottom of the lake and told him stories. When they came to the surface, he snared the giant fish with his line. Jangles upbraided him for his ungratefulness, and the boy released him, removing the lures as penance. The story ends with an image of the tackle box full of them. The illustrations are full-bleed spreads in dark shades of green, brown, and blue. Jangles is so huge that he runs off the pages, and his lures-covered underbite and mean yellow eye are distinctly scary.  Shannon’s people have the rounded faces and bulging eyes found in The Rain Came Down (Scholastic, 2000), and are reminiscent of the creepy computer animated baby that went viral in the 1990s. The story is predictable, short on plot, and heavy on exclamation points. The narrator’s sudden ability to breathe underwater is more jarring than Jangles’s ability to talk, and the fish’s capture feels mean-spirited, leading to a didactic ending.–Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT



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