Thursday, December 8, 2011




Summary: This picture book focuses on a lesson about giving of one’s self through the tale of Rainbow Fish, the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. This fish swims along in its beautiful state but remains alone because it can’t be bothered with other fish that are not physically as attractive as it is. Other fish play and swim together, but the Rainbow Fish is alone and eventually lonely. However, other fish soon ask him to share his beautiful rainbow scales. At first the answer is a definite no; then on some advice from a wise octopus, the fish shares his beauty with other fish and receives the acceptance it has been looking for.

Citation:  Pfister, M. (1992). Rainbow fish. New York, NY: North-South Books.

Impression: This book is a beautifully illustrated moral tale that leaves me feeling two different impressions. First, the quiet watercolors are the perfect backdrop for the simple underwater tale. The point, as I am sure it was intended, is to promote sharing and giving of one’s self. In this way, the story is charming and a good read for small children. On the other hand, as an adult reader, I recognize the fact that the fish is not just giving its time or effort, but is physically removing a part of its self and these parts are worn as decoration of the other fish. I found this imagery to be slightly disturbing.

Fader, E. (1992, November). Rainbow fish [Review of the book Rainbow fish, M. Pfister]. School 
 Library Journal, . Available from School Library Journal website:

Children will be immediately drawn to this book that features an iridescent, metallic-looking main character whose ``scales were every shade of blue and green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them.'' Adult suspicions of the gimmick overwhelming the story quickly fade as the plot unfolds: none of the other fish will have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish, who always swims by superciliously and refuses to give away any of his special garb. He is lonely and without admirers until a wise female octopus advises him to give away his scales. Rainbow Fish then discovers that sharing brings happiness and acceptance. The delicate watercolors of underwater scenes are a perfect foil to the glittering scales that eventually form a part of each fish's exterior. This is certainly a story written to convey a message, but in its simplicity, it recalls the best of Lionni. Besides, what three-year-old doesn't need reinforcement about sharing?

 I think that this would be an excellent book to use in a display about ocean life for younger readers. The illustrations are particularly well done and evocative.  This could also be used as a recommendation to a parent looking for a book to help a child understand sharing, especially in the instance of welcoming a new sibling into the family.

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