________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 8 . . . . December 14, 2001

The Biggest Fish in the Lake The Biggest Fish in the Lake.

Margaret Carney. Illustrated by Janet Wilson.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 1-55074-720-7.

Subject Headings:
Fishing-Juvenile fiction.
Grandfathers-Juvenile fiction.
Grandparent and child-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Val Nielsen.



"Whenever I'm at Grandpa's farm, and the weather's right and the chores are done, Grandpa and I go fishing."

Grandpa and the young narrator of The Biggest Fish in the Lake are fishing buddies. When Grandpa surprises his granddaughter with a spinning rod on her birthday, it's only a matter of time before the experienced fisherman has taught his little protege to cast well enough to be taken on a grown up fishing trip. On their first day out, the two enjoy watching the birds and eating their picnic lunch, but only one fish is caught, and that by Grandpa. Next morning, however, the granddaughter is up at the crack of dawn and sees the water churning at the end of the dock. Three times she casts her line, and on the third, "With a sudden jerk, my rod flew forward, nearly yanked from my hands. Then my reel was screaming as the line played out. The huge fish had grabbed my lure and was swimming away with it...straight toward the weeds, where it could tangle the line and escape."

     The climax of The Biggest Fish in the Lake occurs as the small girl struggles to reel in a giant muskie, surely "the biggest fish in the lake." Memories from childhood summers spent at the family cottage in southern Wisconsin have provided author Margaret Carney with the inspiration for this evocative tale. Award-winning illustrator Janet Wilson's bright watercolour paintings have captured the quiet beauty of the fishing spots at Grandpa's farm as well as the loveliness of a northern lake and its wild inhabitants. Wilson's amazing talent at depicting character through faces gives the reader an instant empathy with the passionate angler and his little granddaughter.

     The author has chosen to tell her story in the first person from the point of view of a nine-year- old, but unfortunately the occasional use of too-mature words and phrasing in the text detracts from the authenticity of voice which she is attempting to achieve. Nonetheless, readers who have experienced the quiet pleasure of fishing, as well as the dramatic thrill of landing a "big one," will find this gentle story celebrating the relationship of grandparent and grandchild appealing. The Biggest Fish in the Lake should prove a valuable addition to the library's collection of picture books with an inter-generational theme.


A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364