Skip to main content

Fish Girl, story by Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner, pictures by David Wiesner, 192 pp, RL 4

David Wiesner has long been a favorite author/illustrator of mine and I was over the moon when I found out he was creating Fish Girl, his first graphic novel, a collaboration with the wonderful children's book author Donna Jo Napoli. They have teamed up to create a beautiful, poignant story of  self-discovery, friendship, and mermaids.

Well, one mermaid. Fish Girl's story begins in a three story brick building at the edge of the ocean in a seaside tourist town. Ocean Wonders boasts three floors of aquatics displays (only two open to the public) and one mermaid who is glimpsed occasionally - just enough to keep the public intrigued and coming back for more. There is even a bedroom on display for visitors to see where the Fish Girl sleeps at night. 

At night, Fish Girl has run of the aquarium and she and her octopus friend swim and play. That is, after Neptune, the man who runs the aquarium, tells Fish Girl stories of her infancy and how he rescued her. He tells her stories of her kin, mermaids and muses, all the while she listens, silently. Fish Girl has no voice. Fish Girl is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, but with superb modern updates, like dropping the Prince all together. In place of the witch is Neptune, or the man who calls himself Neptune. A human who tells Fish Girl stories of his rescue of her just as the rest of her kind were being lost to shark attacks and human encroachment, Neptune is constantly haranguing her to do her job better and bring in more money.

When Livia first sees Fish Girl, she is thrilled to discover she is real and not just a gimmick. Quickly, Livia sees that she and Fish Girl have so much in common and she empathizes with her. Soon, she is returning to Fish Girl's private floor with examples of life on the world outside, like pictures of horses and sandwiches encased in plastic so that silent Fish Girl can learn about life for humans. Livia even gives Fish Girl a name, Mira, short for Miracle. Inspired - knowledge is power - Fish Girl begins exploring outside of her tank.

Watching Fish Girl, Mira, grow as she makes discoveries and puts together the pieces of her sheltered, confined life, is wondrous and uplifting. As you might expect, if you are a fan of Wiesner's books, Flotsam (for which he won one of his three gold Caldecott medals) especially, you can imagine the amazing underwater world he creates in Fish Girl. And you won't be disappointed. I was fortunate enough to hear David Wiesner talk about his creative process and interested to learn that he will create and image and sit with it for years before the story that accompanies it makes itself known to him. This was the case with Mr. Wuffles ,(for which he won one of his three sivler Caldecott medals) which took ten years to come to fruition. With Fish Girl, Wisner had illustrations that went back to his time in art school, resurfacing again in 2009 when he contributed to a book called The Imaginary Library. Finally, he showed a handful of illustrations to his long-time friend Donna Jo Napoli and she began to tease the story out from them. Knowing this back story is marvelous and only adds to this unforgettable story of a girl living in isolation and what she does when she finally realizes her world is bigger than she knows. 

Source: Review Copy


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…