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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Jean Gourounas
Age Range: Under_5
Penguin is doing a spot of fishing. With a fishing pole and line dangling in a hole in the ice she patiently waits, but so far the fish aren’t biting. As a cumulative cast of polar characters appear with a barrage of questions – ‘Are you fishing?’, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ ‘Are the fish biting?’ – the grumpy penguin ignores them all as she quietly persists with her task.
French author/illustrator Jean Gourounas’ clever picture book has a droll sense of humour and a surprise ending. All the animals (and human) are by turn ‘baffled’, ‘perplexed’ and ‘flummoxed’ as to why the fish aren’t biting the bait and they all decide that there is definitely something fishy going on.
With the repetition and the reader being able to take on different character voices, Something’s Fishy is perfect for reading aloud. Some of the words used to describe the bewilderment of the animal characters are quite sophisticated and may not be familiar to a very young audience, but increasing vocabulary will be an added bonus.
The story is constructed almost as if it’s an animation, with a slow build-up of both the visual and the narrative. Together with the dead-pan humour the story and stylish illustrations grow page by page. At the beginning there is plenty of empty space in the artwork with the focus on Penguin. As new animals are introduced the space fills up until there are an array of characters all competing for space by the end of the story. Gourounas has used bold graphics and a limited pallet of pale blue, white and shades of browns giving it a real wintery feel. The bemused expressions of the animals are hilarious; ranging from surprise, confusion and puzzlement.
Something’s Fishy is a delightfully engaging story that is sure to become a firm favourite with young children and adults.