Temple and Hall's newest picture book collaboration is part ballad, part ghost story and part tall tale. Uncle Sheb makes his home on a shabby, ramshackle ``cabin on a raft,'' and he's been most content with his life on the lower Mississippi: catching and frying up fish, watching the stars and steering clear of landlocked chores like milking cows. So, when Sheb ``up 'n' dies,'' his friends show their respect by sinking the boat, ``uncle and all.'' Now the local legend claims that on a clear night, ``If you watch and squint your eyes just right, / You'll see a shanty boat passin' in the middle of the night.'' Temple's rousing, dialect-rich language and lots of repetition infuse the text with a clap-along Cajun flavor. Hall's collagraphs bustle with a tone of joyous confusion. Her Sheb and his grinning pets seem at ease amidst any ruckus around them. Though some of the phrasing may prove a bit difficult for younger readers, this catchy rhyming story will provide tongue-tickling entertainment. Ages 4-8. (Mar . )
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-The carefree life of a Mississippi boatman is remembered in this foot-stomping ballad. Flouting a conventional life of farming and never marrying (``'Cause the women see him coming gonna run for their life''), Uncle Sheb was content ``Goin' down, down, ever downstream.'' Although folks got a chuckle out of his shabby shanty boat, the simple pleasures of life on the river made Sheb a happy man. He had time to savor a catfish sizzling in his frying pan, sip sassafras tea from an old fruit jar, and watch the stars. When he died, they piled bricks and cannonball and sank the boat in a fitting burial. In an eerie conclusion, rumors hint that in the full moon, the old man might still be seen navigating his beloved river. Young audiences will love chiming in on the refrain, and will be fascinated by the unconventional life style. Hall's serene illustrations burst from their frames into the white space of the page, emphasizing the man's roguish quality and the many moods of the river. The art is luminous with light ranging from the warmth of the morning sun to the mysterious glow of the moon. Shanty Boat will make a great read-aloud partner for Steven Kellogg's Mike Fink (Morrow, 1992).-Lisa S. Murphy, formerly at Dauphin County Library System, Harrisburg, PA
Temple's rollicking ballad relates the life of Uncle Sheb, a boatman on the Mississippi River. A wanderer who never settles down with a wife or true home, Sheb spends his life floating downstream, sleeping in a rundown shanty boat, and cooking catfish over a paint-can fire. Although he is no longer alive, some say that when the moon is bright, his boat and ghost can still be seen along the river. Hall's mixed-media illustrations--rich earth tones for Sheb and his boat are contrasted with purples and blues for the river--portray the bucolic existence of this solitary oarsman, whose only worry is getting his boat snagged on a branch in the middle of the night. The traditional style makes this a natural extension of primary folklore units; older children may want to experiment with writing ballads of their own. Although told in verse that seems intended for music, none is included.