174 of 189 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rainbow Fish
ISBN 1558580093 - It's a rare thing that I read a childrens' book knowing full well that there is an actual critical debate going on about it, but The Rainbow Fish is one of those. With that in mind, I'll begin with those parents. The message any child gets from a book that is read to them is more dependent upon you than the contents of the book. If you're going to be all...
Published on April 24, 2009 by Anna M. Ligtenberg
102 of 132 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of over-hyped children's books
This book is very pretty. I've read it to a group of children (not my choice - a teacher asked me to do so) and to my own child, who got it out of the library, and I've certainly seen its appeal to young children. They can't sit still. They just have to reach out and touch the lovely, shiny, foil scales. (Although the look of disappointment on their faces when they find...
Published on July 19, 2001 by slomamma
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174 of 189 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rainbow Fish,
If, on the other hand, you can manage two things: to actually read the book and get the message (which isn't socialism/fascism/communism and isn't really sharing, either) and to understand that you are not 4 years old and your 4 year old doesn't think the way you do, then this book is worth picking up.
A beautiful, conceited fish lives in the deep part of the ocean. His scales sparkle and shine as he swims through the ocean - alone. The other fish attempt to befriend him, but he ignores them until one day when a small blue fish approaches him. The small blue fish tells the Rainbow Fish how beautiful his scales are, and asks for one of them. Horrified, the Rainbow Fish refuses and swims on, puzzling aloud over his loneliness. A crab directs him to an octopus, whose advice is simple: give away his scales to the other fish and he will be happy. After some thought, and a second request from the small blue fish, the Rainbow Fish takes the octopus's advice and finds friendship and happiness.
Let's face it - this book has a large number of 5-star and 1-star reviews for a reason. Here's my two cents on those reasons: One, look closely at reviews and you'll notice that many negative reviews are for the board book edition, which is truncated to suit the format. The book has already been translated from its original language (Swiss) and then it's edited to fit a smaller book - of course there is going to be missing information in that version. Two, adults are reading this book, assessing it by their own standards and forgetting that children see a very different story here. Adults see the scales as what they are in the real world: a part of the body of a living creature that doesn't talk. In this book, which isn't the real world (as evidenced by the talking fish), the scales are more comparable to clothing or jewelry - a possession, not a physical feature. Adults also seem to fail to see one glaring thing: while their eyes are on the "give away your possessions" issue, they forget the way the story starts. In the beginning, the Rainbow Fish is vain and lonely, concerned only with his scales and their beauty, certain that he should be liked for his beauty alone ("I really am beautiful. Why doesn't anybody like me?").
The idea that the message here is about sharing is easily proven false. The summary inside reads "The most beautiful fish in the entire ocean discovers the real value of personal beauty and friendship" - not a single word there about sharing. The message in this book is more about not letting your possessions possess you, about understanding that others won't like you just because you're pretty, and about recognizing that friendship isn't about someone else adoring you but about sharing something, even if all you share is play time (not necessarily possessions). For that alone, if those are messages that you're able to convey to your child, the book is worthy of the shelf space. Add in the lovely pastel illustrations (and the person saying this usually despises pastel illustrations) by Marcus Pfister with the scales that actually sparkle and you've got a winner. The worst I can say about the book is that, perhaps, something is lost in the translation by J. Alison James. Children will enjoy the story and be very happy that, in the end, the Rainbow Fish isn't alone anymore. If you like this one, be sure to catch up with the sparkly fish in Rainbow Fish Finds His Way.
94 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A suggestion if the "message debate" has you on the fence...,
This review is from: The Rainbow Fish (Board book)If you have read through some of the controversy, and are on the fence about this book, I would suggest buying the full hardcover version rather than the board book edition. Having read both, I can more readily agree with the naysayers' point of view when applied to the board book. The text is simplified in such a way that makes it easy for a vigilant parent to misunderstand the message.
However, I found the hardcover book to be perfectly lovely. In this version, it was more clear that the reason the Rainbow Fish had no friends was because of his arrogant attitude and unwillingness to share - not because the other fish were envious, or needed to be "bought" with gifts. The sharing of his scales was not to "buy" friends or to promote communism - rather, it represented his learning three important lessons: 1) that his identity need not be tied into his appearance or his possessions, 2) that he shouldn't consider himself to be superior to the other fish just because their scales were a different color than his, and 3) that sharing your blessings with those around you makes you - and them - feel good.
I highly recommend this book, in its original version.
102 of 132 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of over-hyped children's books,
I think getting children interested in books at a young age is crucial, so ordinarily I would love a book with this kind of appeal, even if it wasn't a book that especially appealed to me. I perfectly understand that sometimes children and adults have different tastes.
But this book, despite its prettiness, is awful. A beautiful fish, different from all the other fish because of his glittering, jewel-colored scales, has a hard time making friends, because the other fish don't like the fact that he does not look like them. In order to win friends, he gives away his scales, one by one, until all the fish in the ocean look alike. I understand that the book is supposed to be about sharing, but giving away everything you have isn't sharing, it's buying friends. That's something many young children are already prone to do, and it's not something any caring parent or teacher would want to encourage.
The book's success also bothers me because it is a blatant rip-off of a much better book - Leo Lionni's classic Tico and the Golden Wings. In Lionni's book, a bird gives away the golden feathers of its wings. But the tone of the book is very different. Lionni's bird is born without wings, unable to fly. He wishes for wings, and is granted golden ones. As he flies around the world, he sees people living lives of great hardship and he gives each person one of his golden feathers in order to help them. Each time he gives away a golden feather, a real one grows in its place. In the end, his bird friends see him with his black wings and tell him that now he's just like them. But Tico realizes that although he looks like them, he is different inside.
Unlike The Rainbow Fish, Tico and the Golden Wings teaches children to be generous AND to be themselves. It doesn't make it seem like it's impossible to be a unique individual and still get along with others.
151 of 204 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Under the sea,
Originally a Swiss picture book (who knew?), "Rainbow Fish" tells the tale of a little sparkly fellow below the sea. The Rainbow Fish glitters and glides in the ocean's depths, ignoring the calls of the other fish to come out and play. One day a little fish asks for one of his shiny scales. The Rainbow Fish is not exactly polite in his refusal, but for some reason this is the comment that causes all the other fish to make him a social pariah. The Rainbow Fish is a little upset by this and asks the advice of a wise old octopus. Unfortunately the octopus is of the opinion that Rainbow Fish should give away the very things that make him special. His shiny scales. Once he has given a scale to all the other fishes he'll look exactly like everyone else and be happy. He does and then is. The end.
I suppose if you looked at this book from a religious context it might make a little more sense. But even then the moral would still run along the lines of give-up-your-worldly-possessions-and-everybody-will-like-you. Hm. What makes this book so offensive to some readers is the simple fact that it's is preaching a kind of same = good mentality. Tis better to meld with the crowd than to hold onto that which makes you an individual and unique, it sayeth. Then there are the illustrations to contend with. In an interesting marketing technique, the shiny scales Rainbow Fish sports are small hologram-ish cut-outs that line his body. Little kids will, presumably, see the shiny things on the cover of the book and immediately grab it. But how stand the rest of the illustrations? Certainly the colors in this tale are luminous and lovely. Pfister has developed a lovely watercolor technique wherein the blended shades of the scenes work perfectly within the context of the story. Unfortunately, the actual illustrations themselves are fairly hum drum. Don't expect the breathtaking loveliness of Eric Carle's "Mister Seahorse" or even the originality of a similar seaside tale, Irene Haas's, "The Maggie B.". Characters here never change expression (except that once in a while their little fishy mouths curl either up or down as appropriate). As a gimmick, the shiny scales work well. Just don't pay much attention to anything else in this tale.
The best advice I can give regarding "The Rainbow Fish" is to recommend Leo Lionni's classic picture book, "Swimmy". Like The Rainbow Fish, Swimmy's a little guppy who's different from everyone else. But rather than, oh say, changing his scale color to blend in, Swimmy uses his unique position in society to help those around him while remaining true to himself. A powerful statement that "The Rainbow Fish" sorely lacks. I'm not saying this is the worst picture book ever written, mind you. Just a mediocre one. With all the wonderful picture books out there, why not grab the best and leave the rest? Or, if we're going to take the advice of the Rainbow Fish to heart, do what everyone else is doing and strive for mediocrity. Hey, it worked for him!
248 of 337 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Celebration of Appeasement and Mediocrity,
110 of 149 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ten reasons to avoid this book at all costs:,
This is the story of a beautiful fish who is hated and ostrasized by all the other fish in the sea because they envy his beautiful silver scales. I assumed that the moral of the story would have something to do with everyone being beautiful in his or her own way, and that eventually the other fish would come to recognize their own beauty. Unfortunately not. Instead, the Rainbow Fish is harangued and harrassed by his fellow fish until he has given away all but one of his silver scales. In the end he is very happy because he has become popular.
The morals of this story are pretty shocking: 1.) It suggests that children should give in to peer pressure. 2.) It teaches children that friendship can be bought. 3.) It says that it is not only right, but a moral imperative, to sacrifice the very essence of yourself for the sake of popularity. 4.) It suggests that popularity is the ultimate good, and that one cannot be happy without it. 5.) It teaches that envy will be rewarded. 6.) It teaches children that it's okay to ostrasize people who are different. 7.) It teaches that rude behavior is acceptable if it gets you want you want. 8.) It suggests (to younger readers in particular, who may not be capable of grasping metaphor) that only outer beauty matters. 9.) It teaches that happiness can be achieved by tearing down or destroying what belongs to others. 10.) It preaches a kind of social Marxism: that there is no value in the uniqueness of an individual, that his worth and his happiness depend on his desire to conform to the values and demands of his peer group.
Frankly, I am astounded that anyone saw fit to confer any honors upon this book.
24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing,
This review is from: The Rainbow Fish (Board book)Yes, I know some will feel that those who dislike this book are analyzing it to death, and if you are one who dislikes analyzing, you may really enjoy this book, and you can skip the rest of my review. Having said that, though, I found the story line for this book to be very disturbing. On the surface the story is about sharing, and indeed that message is conveyed. However, several other themes come across as well, and I think they are more prominent. First, if you refuse to give up what makes you special or beautiful when someone asks for it you will be rejected. Second, one is loved and valued for what one has to give away to other people. Third, it's not OK to stand out in some way - everyone must be the same.
Despite the disturbing (to me) themes, I found the book to be beautifully illustrated. We have the bath book version, and the illustrations are much more beautiful and complex than your average bath book. The colors in the illustrations are all within the same color family, though (adjacent on the color wheel for you artists) - purple, blue, green. This color scheme is appealing to me, but my daughter finds it boring, and doesn't really like to look at this book.
I don't read the story to my daughter because the themes concern me, but if your child likes the colors and pictures it's a nice book just to look at together. We "read" the things in the pictures rather than the story ("Look it's a pretty fish with shiny scales" "Where's the seashell?" etc) and that works fine. I wouldn't buy the book for myself, but I didn't throw it away when someone gave it to me either.
Bottom line for you fish lovers: What happens when you take away a fish's scales? Answer: It dies.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutly Do NOT buy this book! Supports bullying and self-multilation!,
Summary of the book:
The rainbow fish was born with a natural gift of beautiful sparkly scales (note its a genetic trait the same as blue eyes or blond hair). Because of how beautiful she was, the other fish discriminated against and mocked her (note they were not punished for that bullying). The rainbow fish therefore could not make friends and was terribly lonely. So the only way to make friends was to rip off all but one of her beautiful scales and give them away to those who had persecuted her (self-mutilation). Only when she bribed others by giving them things, could she have friends and be happy with herself. Seriously that is the story in this book but written in more colorful words with pretty pictures.
So what this book actually teaches are the following:
1. You should be ashamed of your natural beauty, talents, giftings, etc. and others have the right to hate you and discriminate against you for them.
2. In order to make friends you have to destroy yourself or bribe them because having friends and not being lonely are the only things that can possibly make you happy in life.
3. No one can get along unless everyone is exactly the same and has exactly the same things.
All of this is totally the opposite message we should be giving to our children! Diversity in talents, skin color, hair types, abilities, giftings, etc. is what makes our society INTERESTING and children should never mock others because of those differences and no child should feel ashamed for being smart or beautiful or athletic. They should use those talents to serve others and work together as a team.
Therefore find another book to read to your kid that actually deals with sharing.
60 of 81 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars At best, a missed opportunity. At worst, despicable.,
By A Customer
Unfortunately, this book not only fails to produce such a story or lesson, but rather teaches us several undesirable lessons. And make no mistake -- this book is not about sharing.
First, we are taught that we should simply ask others, who have more than we do, to give us something for nothing. And not just ask for "something" but ask for the very thing that makes the other person feel special about themselves and that which they value most in the world. Apparently, we have a right to what others have.
Second, we are taught that if someone asks you to give him something free of charge, we shouldn't ask why but rather should just give it away -- even if it is the very thing we prize most in this world.
Third, we should be appalled if someone scoffs at or refuses such a request to give us something free for no apparent reason. And we also learn that it is appropriate to ostracize such an individual. Indeed, we are taught that ostracism based on envy is perfectly appropriate.
Fourth, we should understand that others, who don't have what we have, will ostracize us. If we want their friendship, we should give them what we have -- even if it requires that we give away our most prized possession in the world. Only then can we have friends.
Fifth, we learn that we can indeed befriend someone if they give us what we want and ask for. Indeed, buying friends is perfectly appropriate.
Finally, we learn that being unique is wrong. We should all be the same -- only then can we be happy.
This is the worst book I'm aware of (and I'm aware of many) that you could ever read to your child. Truly despicable. And parents take note: this is mandatory reading in some public schools.
44 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book fell below my expectations.....,
By A Customer
The rainbow fish is aesthetically, a very pleasing book, with it's beautiful many hued fish and the shimmery shiny scales, but all the visual effects do not make for the rather unpleasant story line. Sharing is one thing, but when you have to give away the one thing that makes you unique in order to cultivate friends suggests that the only way friendship can be had is through purchase. The little fish asks a second time for a scale, even though he was refused the first time after which he alienated all the other fish from rainbow fish. What does the story say about small (minded, greedy) people who want what another has and when they don't get it they go around poisoning everyones' minds against the person? This story left a bad taste and I returned the book the very next day.
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Rainbow Fish Big Book by Marcus Pfister (Paperback - April 1, 1995)