There’s something fishy about these fantastic picture books

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As we near the end of July, you may be looking for a new kind of whale of a tale to share with your little one. The following picture books feature fish tales of large and small stature with a few surprises mixed in for good measure.

South Daniel DuncanSOUTH by Daniel Duncan, Harry N. Abrams, May 2, 2017, Hardcover, $17.95 (ages 5-7)

In Daniel Duncan’s debut picture book, South, we are introduced to a fisherman, a new friend, an unexpected adventure and the path to a way home.

Once upon a time, there was a fisherman who sailed the seas alone. He was lonely, so when he discovered an injured bird on his boat, he decided to nurse it back to health. The two quickly became good friends, sharing fish and music each day. But the fisherman knew that a boat was no home for a bird and so he came up with a plan to make sure his friend made it south for the winter.

The suggested age range for South is 5-7, but based on the simplicity of the text, I think you can go younger. My 3 ½-year-old has likes it and any questions she does have are the start of great conversations.

The star of South is Daniel Duncan’s illustrations. While the story itself is quite simple, there’s nothing simple about the artwork. Duncan’s lovely illustrations beg to be perused. I would buy this book for the cover alone, as an added bonus there’s lots to enjoy inside the covers as well.

Splotch Gianna MarinoSPLOTCH, by Gianna Marino, Viking Books for Young Readers, May 2, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 4-6)

Gianna Marino’s Splotch is a humorous and refreshing take on the death of a pet goldfish.

When a boy’s pet goldfish dies while he’s at school, his mother rushes to find him a replacement. But when the boy gets home and finds an empty bowl, he realizes the worst must have happened — Splotch must have run away.

The next day Splotch returns, but something’s not quite right. Splotch’s distinctive spot has moved. That’s when the boy realizes his beloved pet has been changed by aliens!

The next morning, the spot has moved again. It’s up to a creative mom and son to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I didn’t grow up with pets, so I can only imagine what life would be like should one die. And while I’m sure this book isn’t a perfect match for everyone, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The text in Splotch is sparse, with the main action dependent on Gianna Marino’s illustrations. Her visual cues are spot-on throughout.

Skyfishing Poly BernateneSKYFISHING: (A Grand Tale with Grandpa), by Poly Bernatene and Gideon Sterer, Harry N. Abrams, April 11, 2017, Hardcover, $17.95 (ages 4-8)

Skyfishing is a tale of finding home even in the most unexpected places.

Grandpa loves to fish. He’s been a fisherman his entire life. hen he moves to the city with his family, it doesn’t take long to see that fish can’t live where there are no rivers and lakes.

After trying new hobbies, his granddaughter suggests something else — “Let’s pretend.” And that’s just what they do. Sitting on the fire escape they dangle their lines and start reeling in their catch — chimefish, signfish, laundry eels and a cold-air-square. As they days go on, new and exotic fish appear. Soon the big city has become the duo’s ocean and they explore it together.

Skyfishing has more text than the two previous books, but it never gets in the way. Again, there’s a perfect balance between prose and illustration with each giving way to the other at pivotal points. As the story unfolds, the illustrations become more vibrant, chaotic and detailed — you notice more with each reading — and yet illustrator Gideon Sterer knows when to rein it in, too.

I love the grandfather/granddaughter setup of this book. The two are the focus, and you only see the outline of her mother in one illustration. The grandfather’s despondence is something the two of them tackle together. I loved watching their relationship blossom and strengthen throughout the book.

© 2017, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

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About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

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