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The Rainbow Fish Hardcover – January 27, 1999

508 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you read this very popular book just before bed, and the light is still on in the hallway, you can make the rainbow scales glitter on the page, and realize why the Rainbow Fish was so proud of his beautiful decoration. Sometimes, though, being too proud of outside beauty can blind a fish, or a child (or even, heaven forbid, a parent) to the beauty people hold inside. That's the lesson of this simple tale, imported from Switzerland. It's a useful one for future sneaker and designer clothing shoppers, for rainbow fish--and for quieter, plainer minnows, too.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite some jazzy special effects achieved with shimmery holographs, this cautionary tale about selfishness and vanity has trouble staying afloat. Rainbow Fish, "the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean," refuses to share his prized iridescent scales--which, indeed, flash and sparkle like prisms as each page is turned. When his greed leaves him without friends or admirers, the lonely fish seeks advice from the wise octopus, who counsels him to give away his beauty and "discover how to be happy." The translation from the original German text doesn't enhance the story's predictable plot, and lapses into somewhat vague descriptions: after sharing a single scale, "a rather peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish." Deep purples, blues and greens bleed together in Pfister's liquid watercolors; unfortunately, the watery effect is abruptly interrupted by a few stark white, text-only pages. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 10 years
  • Lexile Measure: 410L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: North-South Books; First Edition edition (January 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558580093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558580091
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.3 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (508 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

235 of 257 people found the following review helpful By Anna M. Ligtenberg VINE VOICE on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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 freaked out by some wacky idea that this book teaches socialism, you're going to convey that to your child and you will do more harm than the book, all by itself, ever could - in that case, just pass up this book. No harm done to anyone. While I think you're crazy, I think you have the right to make that choice.

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.
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133 of 152 people found the following review helpful By J. H. on December 2, 2002
Format: 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.
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186 of 227 people found the following review helpful By slomamma on July 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 out it's just a flat surface is also obvious.)
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.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sue on September 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
The next time I see an acquaintance wearing expensive jewels I don't intend to go up and seriously ask her to give me some too. But apparently that is the type of behaviour this book seeks to encourage.

This is not a sweet book on sharing. It is about a lonely fish buying friendship and and the other fish in the story are jealous and manipulative. The Rainbow Fish is beautiful and aloof and doesn't have friends. A little fish asks for one of the Rainbow Fish's pretty scales. When the Rainbow Fish says no, all the other fish ostracise him for refusing. After he gives all his scales but one, the other fish become his friends. They were never his friends to start with; he had BUY their friendship. The other fish were jealous and greedy, and pressured him to give what was rightfully his in order to be his friends. If the Rainbow Fish had given some scales to a fish who never asked just to be kind, that would be a very different story and maybe a decent one, but that's not how this book goes. Talk about encouraging an attitude of greed and entitlement on the part of all those other fish. The only reason to read this to kids is to teach them about what all the other fish did wrong, that you are not entitled to other poeple's things, and that you shouldn't have to buy friends.
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