December 9, 2016
Fish by Liam Francis Walsh
A boy, who in early drafts was named “Alex,” goes on an unusual fishing trip. He and his dog take a row-boat out and soon they’ve dropped their lines in the water. Before too long, Alex (because it is easier to call him by a name) is reeling in his catch. The letter F. Next he catches an I and then an S.
All the while, the dog has his own story taking place on the other side of the boat. A menacing letter C emerges from the water and looms over the boat as if it is going to bite down on the small craft and its crew.
When Alex hooks the letter H, it puts up a fight. Alex is hauled out of the boat and towed beneath the water. Eventually he makes his way back to the boat, catch in hand. They have caught FISH. No, it isn’t going to be that easy. After all, this is a really good book so something has to go wrong to increase the tension. But you’re going to have to “read” the book yourself to see what it is.
I say “read” the book because this book is nearly wordless. Alex and his dog catch the F-I-S-H and the letters are later incorporated into the F-I-n-i-S-H sign at the end of a race.
If you’ve never shared a wordless book, or a nearly wordless book, with a young reader pick Fish up. It is a very different, completely rewarding, experience to share the pictures while each of you work to spin the story that you see.
Another reason that I love this book is that Walsh plays with the letters themselves. I love typography and the emotion and character that letters as art can portray. Walsh creates a menacing C, a swarm of Bs and As that look like fins cutting through the water. This was the perfect debut children’s book for Walsh who is a cartoonist for the New Yorker. His artwork is deceptively simple but his characters depict an array of expressions and effectively pull the “reader” into a story well worth sharing with a young book lover.
Note: No where in the book does it reveal that the boy is “Alex.” I read that in an interview with Walsh.