Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dear Fish by Chris Gall

My lovely daughter is a wonder. She has turned me on to yet another winning picture book. This one, by Chris Gall is called Dear Fish published by Time Warner Group. The story is simple yet so appealing. Peter goes to the beach, writes a note to the fish admiring where they live, and inviting them home for his mother’s pie. The next morning, while Peter is brushing his teeth, he discovers that fish have taken him up on his offer. Hilarious scenarios follow, with rather smelly puffer fish filling in for balloons, a sawfish and a hammerhead shark throwing construction into chaos, and a school of fish…well, at school of course. Peter finally restores sanity with another note to the fish ending with “…I think I hear your mothers calling you.” The fish respond but it takes some time for the town to return to normal and for Peter’s parents to allow even goldfish into the house. The story doesn’t end there though. It carries on to a late summer return to the beach where…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out.

Kids will love the active sense Gall brings to the story. Breezes ripple, clouds skip, and the main character, Peter spends the day at the beach “leaping over tide pools, peeking under rocks, and wondering what kinds of curious creatures might live beneath the swirling water.” Everyone will love the fish puns.

A few words about the art…. You will fall in love with the stylized retro feel. There is a sense of movement in every picture, and I loved the way things spill or fly or run out of the framed pictures. Vignettes often compliment the main illustrations, but in some cases they visually carry the story even further. Any who are passionate about endpapers, as I am, will adore this book as they are fabulous renditions of every sort of fish imaginable. Endpapers are the perfect way for any illustrator to set the tone for readers and get them in the mood, which is exactly what Gall does. In fact, even the cover flaps receive artistic treatment. My only complaint about this book, and it is a small one, is that I’d have liked to know a bit about the art medium. This is one of those books that I can see teachers using to extend some of Galls puns with students. Such fun…

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