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The Rainbow Fish Hardcover – January 27, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 644 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Rainbow Fish Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 5
  • 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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (644 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
15 Comments 151 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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12 Comments 227 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
While reading this book with my daughter, I was alarmed at the moral of this story. The rainbow fish has to literally rip his pretty scales out and hand them over to the mob in order to have friends. The other fish will only play with him if he's the same as them. Can you imagine a real life application: "Yes sweetie, I do believe the other little girls are jealous of your beautiful long blonde hair. Here, let's chop it all off so that you won't stand out, and then maybe they'll play with you." I am baffled why this book is so popular? My guess is because the rainbow fish is sparkly, so people buy it because it's a pretty book. Teachers probably use it so they can make pretty sparkly fish in art as a curriculum tie in.
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