by Kate Messner
Andy Rash, illustrator
////////////// for SHORT REVIEW click here//
Inside Cover: There’s a new fish in school, and he’s great! Except . . . He’s not great at being a friend . . . yet. Being kind is a big job, but nothing’s too big for a sea monster.
Opening: We’re getting a new student in my class. I bet he’ll be nervous like I was . . . My old school had parties with rock music every Friday. I’m awesome at playing the drums!
About the Story: Ernest’s class is getting a new fish (student). The new kid is an average sized fish with an oversized ego. He is also bossy and a bit of a bully. He is always right, things must go his way, and he is always the leader. At first, the other fish listened and were a little amazed. Soon, the new fish’s “mine was better” comments and “no, do it my way” orders nagged the other fish, yet no one said anything, not even when the new fish excluded some of the students from his new club. Ernest has a heavy conscience and it weighed on him. He decided to take action.
What I Think: Ernest does as his mother suggested and shows the new fish—no name given—around the school. show the new fish—no name given—around the school. At each stop, the new fish states that his old school was better in some way. In the cafeteria, the menu was a choice between “Leech Pizza” and “Larvae Goulash.” Well, the new fish had an algae bar at his old school.
The new kid is also a braggart. In the library, the new fish carries a load of books to check out. “I can read TEN books in a day!” he says. No one says a word until the new fish forms a new club called the Fresh Fish Club, but excludes “old and stodgy” fish—three fish. Ernest knows this is wrong and it bothers him. I like that Ernest has a conscience and it weighs heavy on him. Ernest took action that was not mean-spirited or exclusive to any fish. When the new fish wants to join in the fun, the other fish finally look upset. Ernest lets the new fish in and he immediately starts being bossy. Ernest is smart and ready for him. The fish clung together, not excluding anyone, which I thought was great.
The illustrations are wonderful with edge-to-edge color and loads of funny details. I especially liked the library books. In his pile of ten books, the new fish carried, The World According to Carp and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Minnow. Mr. Blue, the librarian, has several interesting recommendations. They include If You Give a Trout an Algae Treatment, Gar in a Car, Where the Wild Fish Are, and, of course, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The school fish are a wondrous group of variations kids will love. Nothing is made-up. All the fish are real. How many fish can your child identify? Turn it into an impromptu game.
I really like Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish. Visually, it looks fun and will catch eyes. Often the illustrations say more than the text, though the text tells a good story kids will find relatable. Ah, another impromptu game, which fish are you? And why? I love books that have several ways to communicate the story or the message, if there is one. Books with multiple possibilities like Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish kids read more often, but I think this must happen naturally from a good story with great illustrations.
Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish has the elements I like in a picture book. The new kid, who is bossy, a bully and a braggart has no name, meaning any child can slip his name into the story. Color runs boarder-to-boarder and the illustration details are terrific with small details having the biggest payoff. Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish is a relatable story kids and parents will enjoy. With the start of school lurking around the corner—or already started—Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish is a good back-to-school story that reinforces inclusion and a positive, helpful attitude. Preschool through second grade classrooms would do well to have Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish in their classroom libraries.
Coming in 2014: SEA MONSTER’S FIRST FIELD TRIP
Teachers help Stop Bullying! Download the Friend Fish Pledge Poster for your students!
Andy Rash, illustrator website
Released August 2013
Ages 4 to 8
© 2013 by Chronicle Books, used with permission.
Text: Copyright © 2013 by Kate Messner
Illustrations: Copyright © 2013 by Andy Rash
also available at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sea-monster-and-the-bossy-fish/id650159039?mt=11
What is your favorite book . . . titled for a school of fish?
Stock it in Lake Ernestamke Elementary School’s library, but first edit the title for this underwater school library! (See samples in paragraph below middle illustration.)
Mine would be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone / Harry Haddock and the Fisherman’s Hook