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Papa's Mechanical Fish Hardcover – June 4, 2013

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 480L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374399085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374399085
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.4 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 2-4-This picture book is a fictional account based on events in the life of eccentric inventor Lodner Phillips as told from the perspective of his daughter, Virena. Papa theorizes and tinkers but never succeeds. Finally, while the family is dropping lines from a pier into Lake Michigan, his daughter asks, "have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?" Immediately the man dashes back to his workshop and soon produces one of the world's earliest submarines, the Whitefish. Children will delight in the way Virena is the catalyst for her father's successive improvements to his primitive vessel as she continues to ask questions: about how fish move through water, stay dry, and know where they are going. Kulikov's luminous, playful, detailed illustrations on full-bleed spreads incorporate a variety of perspectives, including close-up views of fish and of Papa underwater and cutaway diagrams of his creations. An afterword is included. The exuberant and inquisitive tone of this book is sure to entertain curious children.-Anne Barreca, New York Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

There’s a rich history of batty inventor/tinkerer dads in children’s books, and the girl narrator’s father in this book could hang with the best of them. That he’s based on a real mid-nineteenth-century person makes it all the better. Whether Papa’s spectacular failures have been great ideas (steam-powered roller skates) or not-so-great (edible socks), “not once has Papa invented anything that works perfectly.” But inspiration flashes when the family is out fishing in the lake—a mechanical fish. Iteration after iteration of his rudimentary submarine ends in lighthearted disaster, each time the object growing more complex and preposterous until he’s finally come up with a vessel just crazy enough to work. Fleming festoons her glib narrative with read-aloud treats of “Clacketa-claketa-clacketa!” and “Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr!” Meanwhile, Kulikov dishes out some tall-tale-worthy artwork and cut-out designs somewhere between Leonardo da Vinci and Rube Goldberg. A closing note talks about Fleming’s inspiration, the inventor Lodner Phillips, who really did take his family for an underwater spin in Lake Michigan in 1851. Grades K-2. --Ian Chipman

More About the Author

I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family's trip to Paris, France.

I told such a good story that people always thought I was telling the truth. But I wasn't. I didn't have a three-legged cat or a ghost in my attic, and I'd certainly never been to Paris, France. I simply enjoyed telling a good story... and seeing my listener's reaction.

Sure, some people might have said I was a seven-year old fibber. But not my parents. Instead of calling my stories "fibs" they called them "imaginative." They encouraged me to put my stories down on paper. I did. And amazingly, once I began writing, I couldn't stop. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, poems, plays. I still have many of those notebooks. They're precious to me because they are a record of my writing life from elementary school on.

In second grade, I discovered a passion for language. I can still remember the day my teacher, Miss Johnson, held up a horn-shaped basket filled with papier-mache pumpkins and asked the class to repeat the word "cornucopia." I said it again and again, tasted the word on my lips. I tested it on my ears. That afternoon, I skipped all the way home from school chanting, "Cornucopia! Cornucopia!" From then on, I really began listening to words--to the sounds they made, and the way they were used, and how they made me feel. I longed to put them together in ways that were beautiful, and yet told a story.

As I grew, I continued to write stories. But I never really thought of becoming an author. Instead, I went to college where I discovered yet another passion--history. I didn't realize it then, but studying history is really just an extension of my love of stories. After all, some of the best stories are true ones -- tales of heroism and villainy made more incredible by the fact they really happened.

After graduation, I got married and had children. I read to them a lot, and that's when I discovered the joy and music of children's books. I simply couldn't get enough of them. With my two sons in tow, I made endless trips to the library. I read stacks of books. I found myself begging, "Just one more, pleeeeease!" while my boys begged for lights-out and sleep. Then it struck me. Why not write children's books? It seemed the perfect way to combine all the things I loved: stories, musical language, history, and reading. I couldn't wait to get started.

But writing children's books is harder than it looks. For three years I wrote story after story. I sent them to publisher after publisher. And I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Still, I didn't give up. I kept trying until finally one of my stories was pulled from the slush pile and turned into a book. My career as a children's author had begun.

For more information visit my website:

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Annette on January 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
We recently checked this book out at the library, and my son LOVES it! He asks for it over and over again. It's very cleverly written, educational, and unique. My son laughs really hard at some parts of the story, he even has portions of it memorized. I will be buying this book. As a parent and avid reader, I love Papa's Mechanical Fish. I highly recommend checking it out at the library or buying it because it's a delight!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erik P. Deede on November 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
My 7 and 4 year old love this book. Wonderful illustrations, engaging story, and laugh out loud funny for them. I especially like the theme of the book- a good lesson for kids of not getting discouraged with failures and continuously striving to improve despite setbacks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Kennen on September 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Papa's an inventor... or, well, he would be, except none of his ideas quite pan out as expected. So takes a break from tinkering by taking his family fishing. But that wandering, wondering mind of his is irrepressible. What would being a fish be like? Papa decides to find out by making a submarine. Only it doesn't pan out so well. Neither does his second attempt. Nor his third...

This cute, whimsical story is based loosely on the real life of an obscure inventor, Lobner Phillips. Papa's interactions with his family and the way he gradually hones in on a working submarine model are equal parts entertaining and educational. The detailed illustrations add well to the exuberance of this book. A cute, methodical take on "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I should have bought this as a paper book! Lovely illustrations and text. My kid like it very much.
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