MerMay and Fish Girl

MerMay and Fish Girl

In honor of MerMay, I thought I'd review Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli.  I confess that I've been dragging my feet about reviewing this one even though I finished it several months ago.  Why?  Because I was disappointed.

Let me start by saying that David Wiesner's Flotsam is one of my favorite picture books of all time. The story and the pictures are amazing and I find something in them every time I read the book.  And it's a book without words. 

In Flotsam, I love the steam punk elements and the fact that there is so much more to the story than the main story of a boy finding a magical camera.  I don't even really question the fact that the camera works or that there are so many pictures within a picture.  Or that most kids these days don't understand what developing film means.  I just enjoy the story, and explain away to my girls as we 'read' along together.  Even more enjoyable is hearing my girls' own interpretations of wordless picture books and how they pick and choose previous details that my husband and I talked about, or they add in their own details.  They make it their own. 

So I had high hopes when I heard that David Wiesner wanted to continue the story in Fish Girl.  Where does the disappointment come in?  Well, it's all in the fact that STORY comes first.  No matter what.  And while I wanted to love Fish Girl, the overall story fell flat for me. 

Spoilers ahead: I was intrigued by Triton and the fact that the Fish Girl can interact and communicate with a girl who comes to the exhibit.  Her new friend, Livia, keeps coming back because she has some well-founded concerns for the Fish Girl, who she names Mira, short for Miracle.  In Spanish, her name also means "look" or "watch", which is also fitting. But the ways in which Mira turns into a human doesn't ring true for me.  Coupled with a few other logic holes (and I'm always willing to suspend my disbelief), the book disappointed me a bit.  I wanted MORE to happen.  I think this is the main problem: the premise is brilliant.  The illustrations as well.  I just wanted the actual story to be tighter.

Having said that, I did adore the fact that Mira could swim all around the building aquarium.  And I absolutely loved her friendship with the octopus.  (Yay that it wasn't a lobster/crab--I always forget which one Sebastian is supposed to be.)  I also liked that the reader was able to see the other side of things, such as increasing pile of bills and the worry on Triton's face. 

Bottom line is that if you're going to re-tell a mermaid-type story, you have a lot to compete with.  The Disney version isn't perfect either, though there's a lot to admire there too.  The Ponyo version is our current favorite.  (Though the Bookworm house may be biased as we're Studio Ghibli fans.)

Rating:  I'm so torn because even though I was disappointed in the storyline, I did enjoy the book.  And the illustrations are amazing.  So, I'm going to say you may want to borrow this one, but if your little enjoys it, then definitely purchase it.  And I'd place it on the middle shelf.

I'm itching to write some side story to Flotsam on my own now....

Ages: 6 and up.

 The lovely octopus from David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli's  Fish Girl.

The lovely octopus from David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli's Fish Girl.

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