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Arlene Sardine Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0531301117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0531301111
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 8.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"So you want to be a sardine." Although not every reader will personally relate to the opening presumption of Chris Raschka's Arlene Sardine, all will appreciate his lively approach to the humble story of an unsung heroine. Arlene starts out as a little fish who knows exactly what color her parachute is--the slippery gray-green of a sardine. Her career takes off when she and a few of her "ten hundred thousand friends" are caught in a purse net and thrown onto the deck of a fishing boat. After taking her last gilled gasp, Arlene is sorted, salted, smoked, packed in oil, et voilà, her dream has come true!

While some adults may read this tale as either a morbid take on the traditional fish story or a thinly veiled call to vegetarianism, it is intended to be neither. Grownups occasionally need reminding that for children, the concept of death is not nearly so fraught with fear and panic and heartache as it is for adults. Arlene isn't much bothered by it either. She knows that sardines are, by definition, dead fish--she simply marks her target and shoots for it.

Raschka earned a Caldecott Honor for Yo! Yes?, and his Mysterious Thelonious garnered acclaim as the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of 1997. In Arlene Sardine, he uses exuberant pastel watercolors and bold, abstract strokes to bring the undersea world alive (and keep it kicking even after the sea life is dead). His text is typically minimal and musical: "Then she was smoked, delicately. She was delicately smoked. Delicately smoked was she." Children will enjoy this matter-of-fact yet playful telling of one tiny fish's journey to sardinehood (and in the process discover words like fjord, thronging, and hermetically), and parents may also learn a thing or two by loosening up and swimming along for the ride. (Ages 4 to 8) --Brangien Davis

From Publishers Weekly

Raschka is at it again, setting picture-book precedent in this witty fjord-to-can account of how one little fish became a sardine. In addition to the deliciously eccentric subject matter, there's also an anomalous plot development: midway through the tale, the heroine expires. When readers first meet Arlene, she's a happy little fish with "about ten hundred thousand friends" who dreams of becoming a sardine. Then, rather abruptly, she's caught in a purse net and dumped on the deck of a fishing boat. Far from being a gloomy event, however, Raschka treats her demise matter-of-factly as just another step toward Arlene's ultimate goal. He then explains how Arlene becomes a sardine: she's sorted, salted, smoked and canned, covered in olive oil, hermetically sealed and finally cooked. Raschka's well-researched text is never ponderous; he opts instead for a playful, poetic approach ("Then she was smoked, delicately. She was delicately smoked. Delicately smoked was she"). The brushwork in his sea-colored watercolors is all swoops and swirls, with such piquant touches as a pink arrow pointing Arlene out in a crowd, and bright-eyed fish with eyes closed for the second half of the story. To top it off, Raschka has turned the cover art sideways and added labels such as "easy-open book" and "net wt. 12 oz." so that the book itself resembles a sardine can. Raschka delivers an uplifting message that death is a regenerative part of the life cycle. All ages.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JL Cooley on September 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Well, I agree with most of the reviews that this book is not appropriate for kids. My daughter (age 3 1/2) constantly asks me to read the book, and her big question is, "Do you think Arlene really wanted to be a sardine? Why?" This book has opened up a can of sardines, so to speak. I have tried to explain that no animal willingly wants to die. I have also tried to explain "thronging" from a scientific standpoint so she can understand the purpose of it. I HATE THE BOOK. But, she loves it. She loves to act out the scenes such as getting caught in a purse net. We have even eaten sardines--brislings, too!

The one redeeming quality of the book is the langauge. The author performs some wordplay that I think is very exceptional for teaching kids syntax. Basically, he rewrites the same sentence with slightly different structures several times. I think it is fabulous for reading aloud and teaching kids to read. I just think the actual theme and plot are romanticized and not something I want to read to my kids.

True story: The first time I read the book to my daughter I read that the "grading" machine was a "grinding" machine. Wouldn't have made any difference the book is so death-centered. After getting the book from the library and being caught by surprise by its inappropriateness, I have realized I should preview anything I read to my kids now.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Crazy James on October 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have heard it stated that there is a very thin line between genius and insanity. Arlene the Sardine is very close to this line in dealing with the issue of death. Those who are scared of the potential of suicide might be very frightened by this book and would rate it low accordingly. The book, about a young fish who wants to become a sardine deals with death in an exceptionally playful manner... so playful that some could consider it macabre. This is a book one will either love or hate. Though, I was somewhat disturbed by the book... I believe that the book is exceedingly well done, with beautiful illustrations, and a playful narrative. It seemed reminiscent of the fairy tales of old... which were far more dark than today's Disney versions. It is a book definitely worth checkig out from your local library.
Crazy James
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Monika Matthews VINE VOICE on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Arlene could be commentary, but why make it so complicated? This is a great book with brilliant artwork that young children love because things are made very obvious. I reconciles the fact that all the kids' books and cartoons personify small creatures and animals with the fact that we eat those smelly little things. It's a hilarious gift for most adults, unless of course they are the overly-sensitive mom-type. I personally enjoy reading this to children and friends alike.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mindy Stombler on July 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Sick of sappy stories about teddy bears, bunnies, and tea parties? Arlene Sardine, a favorite story in our household, fills the void. The artwork is gorgeous and the story is realistic and fun. Added plus: your child will understand the word "hermetically"!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Kindergarten Teacher on March 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am an educator and have read the previously written reviews about this story. In truth, I am horrified by them. To say that the book is no good because it discusses a topic that children are unfamiliar with, is rediculous. Of course my kindergarteners know nothing about sardines, but why shouldn't they? Maybe I read my job description wrong, but I thought I was SUPPOSED to teach them about things that they don't already know. I have not read this book to my students because of all of the contoversy surrounding it, but I wish I could read it to them. Surprise, surprise, children like to be exposed to new information, it peaks their interest in learning. Where would we be if we kept teaching the same information? Eighth graders would still be on the alphabet, and most of them would have dropped out of school because of sheer boredom. -------------In respone to those persons who feel that it is wrong to teach kids about death, (you'd better sit down for this) THEY ALREADY KNOW ABOUT IT!!! They always ask questions about death. They have had pets that have died, or family members, or their friends have told them about it (did your kid miss "The Lion King"), but we make it seem like it is such a taboo topic that they choose not to talk about death. They think it will upset you (obviously, they're right), so they keep those feelings in and they don't ask questions about something that they want to know about. It's amazing to me that people think this book has the potential to be damaging to their kid(s), but think it's fine to ignore a topic that their child probably has questions about. REALITY CHECK, it is not book that cause children to think about suicide, it is the inability to express themselves and their emotions.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ktlib on June 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Have to say, as a librarian and parent of 2 young children, I found this book to be an absolute joy. I actually laughed so hard I cried the first time I read it to my son. It's absurd, it's challenging, it's brilliant.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Finally. A children's book that represents an honest view of life. Haven't we all gotten a little sick of everything Disney? What is wrong about telling an adorable tale of a little fish in the foodchain who aspires to be a salted and canned sardine? Nothing, and in fact, it is a 5 star effort! Thumbs up for Chris Raschka's attempt to honor the cycle of life and not try to relate another tired storyline like Charley the Tuna....
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