February 27, 2014
Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Papa’s Mechanical Fish
by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux
Papa’s workshop behind the house is a place of clanking and banging and industry. Papa is an inventor.
Sometimes he works on helpful things. Other times he works on unusual things. Still other times he labors over playful things. The one thing they all have in common is that no matter what Papa is inventing, nothing seems to work perfectly.
One day, when no new ideas are coming, he takes his family down to Lake Michigan to go fishing.
“Papa . . . have you every wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” Daughter Virena asks the question innocently enough but it launches Papa on his next obsession and he takes off for his workshop right that minute.
The Whitefish is propelled by a pole sticking out of the bottom of the capsule. Things don’t work out quite right.
The Whitefish II has a propeller turned by peddling a bicycle. It sinks below the surface.
Again and again Papa makes changes and tries new things until he succeeds with the Whitefish IV. This version holds 7 people and Papa takes the whole family for a tour of Lake Michigan.
The story as a whole may be fiction but it is inspired by the submarine built by Lodner Phillips. Like the inventor in the story, Phillips took his wife and children for an excursion beneath the waves. No one knows exactly what happened to this real Whitefish.
Boris Kulikov’s artwork varies from technical looking line drawings that bring to mind the sketches of many an inventor to brightly colored paintings of the workshop, underwater fish and surprised children.
Quite probably not the best choice for bedtime reading as it is sure to generate enthusiastic discussion about what Papa should have done or what the young inventors in your audience would do differently. Yes, this would make a top-notch read aloud and would easily lead into discussions on perseverance. Share this with the young reader in your life who needs a nudge to keep trying.