JEAN LAFFITE AND THE BIG OL' WHALE by Frank G. Fox

JEAN LAFFITE AND THE BIG OL' WHALE

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Age Range: 4 - 7
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KIRKUS REVIEW

There are plenty of old, larger-than-life characters who are more closely associated with the Mississippi River than Jean Lafitte and are being forgotten as the years slip into the mists of time. The legendary Mike Fink, Bob Hooker, and even James Eads, who opened the South pass of the America's Great River, deserve to be remembered. So why Fox, in his debut for children, decided to hoist Lafitte onto the level of John Bunyan and other tall-tale heroes is a mystery. Eschewing Lafitte's French roots and his membership in a Privateer pre-mafia, Fox concocts a brand-new character with a familiar name (spelled differently) who, in the best tradition of remarkable legends, is able to walk and swim almost immediately. When a whale swims upriver from the Gulf of Mexico and blocks all water coming down, Laffite comes up with an ingenious way to move the whale and turn the tide. And in true big-country-hero style, he finishes by digging a huge lake (Ponchartrain), thinly because the whale would have someplace to go if he returns rather than providing the people with an alternative if the river were blocked again. Cook's (Lapin Plays Possum, 2002, etc.) illustrations, usually fun and right on for southern fables, come up soggy in this outing, perhaps because the whale is too cute or because Cook's loose style doesn't suit the shadings and odd perspectives needed to paint this tall tale grandly. The story is told in good fun and well enough for the unwashed, but muddies the history and myth of a river that has forgotten more interesting lore than this. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-33669-5
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux