From beloved author Cynthia Rylant and illustrator Mike Austin comes a colorful and quirky picture book about five fish who find unexpected friendship when some new additions to their tank shake things up!
Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny and Mike are five fish friends who love everything about life in the fish tank—except for clean-the-tank day and the snail that lives with them, who they mostly ignore. But one day, when they get an enchanting new fairy-tale castle, disaster strikes! And it turns out there’s only one slippery, slimy non-fish fellow who can help…
Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for young people, including the beloved Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Brownie & Pearl, and Mr. Putter & Tabby series. Her novel Missing May received the Newbery Medal. She lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Visit her at CynthiaRylant.com.
Aquarium life is anything but boring…it's "FAB!"Five orange fish named Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike meet in a pet shop; a little girl takes them home and plops them in a tank. There is something for everyone in the tank: gravel, diver, rock, pirate ship, bubbles…oh, and a snail no one cares much about. Their days consist of swimming and gulping and smacking kisses at the little girl (depicted with light brown skin and straight, black hair). Until tank cleaning day! After the indignities of being stuck in a bowl, the tank and everything in it is clean! Fab! It gets even better: "PLOP!" In drops a clownfish; he's so funny! And then: "PLOP!" In drops an angelfish; she's so beautiful! Then comes the fairy castle! "It is enchanting. / It is ornamental. / It is exotic. / It is … // A TRAP!" Lenny gets stuck in the door. Who can save him? None of the fish…but the snail no one cares for has an idea! Rylant's perky exploration of pet fish life is delightfully enthusiastic and dotted with onomatopoeia. The appealing fish (and snail) are surprisingly expressive in Austin's digitally created illustrations, which incorporate much of the text in large, capital collaged-in letters. The illustrations of aquarium life from the inside are cartoony and bright and resemble a mix of collage and watercolor. Budding aquaculturists will enjoy this tale of friendship from a fish-eye view. (Picture book. 3-8)
– Kirkus Reviews, 6/15/17
Fish buddies Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike live a glorious life in their tank—except on “clean the fish tank day,” when they are “unceremoniously plopped into a bowl.” But their newly sparkling home is worth it, and things get even better with three additions to the tank: a clownfish, an angelfish, and a fairy castle. When Lenny gets stuck inside the castle, an underdog snail—ignored but always nearby—saves the day. Rylant’s text is gushingly enthusiastic (“Can fish-tank life be any more perfect than this? Why, yes!”), and a surplus of sound effects and all-caps display type create the sense of a book quickly moving from readaloud to screamaloud. Austin’s multitextured digital cartoons are equally high-energy, combining the crispness of collage with bold shades of pink, orange, purple, and blue. Underneath the geeked-up antics is a subtle reminder that even when life seems downright blissful, there are some (like a certain overlooked snail) who could use a little attention and care.
– Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2017
Five happy-go-lucky goldfish friends take center stage in this energetic picture book. With lots of cool
stuff (orange gravel, a pirate ship, bubbles), the fish tank is a paradise for the titular quintet. They swim,
laugh at a clown fish’s jokes, ogle the angelfish, and ignore the snail, until one day Lenny gets stuck in the
castle, is freed by the snail, who becomes a hero, “and the fish-tank life returns to what it always was . . .
so fab.” The infectious enthusiasm of the goldfish is brought forth in the playful text, which is full of
action verbs and heightened with slyly inserted words that might challenge (ornamental, exotic). Austin’s
eye-popping digital illustrations handily emphasize the hubbub without clutter or chaos and imbue a fair
amount of personality into the characters. The subtle lesson—don’t overlook those peripheral
souls—doesn’t get in the way of the cheerfulness. Although activity in a fish tank can be fairly limited,
this creative team will surely eke out more adventures for this winsome fab five.
Glitzy digital art brings the fish tank world to life in full-bleed illustrations that exceed the limits of the fish tank itself on pages bordered with scribbly blue water, while other illustrations zoom out to show a little girl cleaning the tank and doing her homework while her fishy friends swim around and around....the fishes’ cartoonish faces are so expressive and their reactions so exaggerated that kids will be sure to giggle over them—especially when the snail makes his heroic, algae-covered appearance....the fishes’ treatment of the snail may be a good entry point into conversations about bullying and friendship.
– BCCB, September 2017
Rylant has always had a fondness for animals (and the Beatles!), and here she has created a sweet story about the five “fab” fish that live in a girl’s large sparkling aquarium. For the fish, every day is “heaven.” They love the diver, the bubbles, and the pirate ship that decorate their tank. Bad days only occur when the little girl cleans the tank; however, after one cleaning day, they get three special surprises—two new fish (a clownfish and an angelfish) and a fairy castle. However, one of the fish immediately gets trapped in the castle, and it is up to an overlooked snail that also lives in the tank to save the day. Children will enjoy the rhyming names of the fish, the repetition (plop, plop), the multitude of exclamation marks, and the use of oversize words at critical points in the story. Austin’s bright and colorful cartoons complement the bouncy text well. The original fish have expressive eyes, front fins that almost look like hands, and bright pink lips. The face of the snail, when he realizes that he can be the hero, is a wonderful blend of charming, goofy, and gross. Finally, Austin sets off scenes that take place in the tank with swirls of blue paint and bubblelike circles on the edges while using a plain white background for scenes outside of the tank. VERDICT A cheerful, engaging story, perfect for reading aloud to younger children.