Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sea monster and the bossy fish by Kate Messner, illustrated by Andy Rash

Sea Monster Ernest is eager to show the new fish around school. But the new fish isn't nervous, like Ernest was when he first came. In fact, the new fish is a little...make that a LOT...bossy. He gets more and more controlling, until he starts the Fresh Fish Club for cool fish and Ernest, while happy to be included, is worried about the fish who are left out. Ernest comes up with a non-confrontational, if a little sappy, solution and everyone is happy again, even the new bossy fish.

Andy Rash's cartoons are bright and colorful, with silly fish faces and lots of clever artwork fitting the giant sea monster in with the other fish. The fish have big, bulbous eyes and a plethora of patterns and shapes. With their very human expressions matched to fishy bodies, kids and adults will get a kick out of the child-pleasing art.

I have to admit I was skeptical when I first picked this book up. I'm not a fan of bibliotherapy and I dislike the whole bullying theme in books for younger kids. Parents do ask for them - I had a patron request picture books on bullying because she said there were a lot of bullies at her child's preschool - but I'm personally not a fan of labeling bully behavior in such young children. A three year old, in my opinion, isn't a bully - they're a three year old! Not to mention so many of these books fall into the "big stupid bully" cliche or the "bully who really just wants to be friends" cliche.

However, I should have expected an excellent author like Kate Messner to steer clear of these pitfalls and this is one book I'd feel happy handing to parents whose kids are having social difficulties in school. Her fishy kids are very realistic, from Ernest who's easily swayed by the exciting new kid, even if he has doubts, to the bossy new kid himself. I especially appreciated that she didn't label the kids and showed the subtle social interactions that went on without making on of the kids out to be the bad guy - just not understanding how to play nicely. While the solution is a little mature for the kids to come up with on their own, and a little sappy, it fit in well with the book.

Verdict: If you have parents clamoring for anti-bully books, and you probably do since that's one of the "hot topic" issues right now, this is a really good choice for younger kids, with a funny story, a gentle lesson, and no black and white labeling.

ISBN: 9781452112534; Published 2013 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's tentative order list

No comments: