Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by David Wiesner. March 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9780544815124.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.5; Lexile: 460.

In this graphic novel, a young mermaid, called Fish Girl, living in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Napoli and Wiesner transport readers under the sea, introducing them to a modern-day heroine who longs to be part of their world.In this riveting graphic novel adaptation of the famous Andersen fairy tale, the nameless mermaid character is part of an aquatic exhibit run by a man who plays the part of Neptune the sea god. Napoli and Wiesner use the form’s sparse dialogue to deftly reimagine the fairy tale’s essential elements, from the heartbreaking divide between land and sea to the indomitable heroine who is willing to risk everything to cross that barrier and follow her heart—in this case, catalyzed by her growing friendship with a human girl who visits her regularly in the aquarium. The shrewd interpretation of the tale’s sexual politics is its most striking feature. The mermaid becomes an Everygirl who discovers that her identity and personhood are subordinated to a man whose sinister charm barely conceals his marginalizing view of her as profitable merchandise. Given current events, the image of a falsely benevolent Neptune who systematically chips away at the mermaid’s self-worth feels eerily apt, rendering the mermaid’s desire for a life on land all the more poignant. Wiesner’s artwork aptly conveys the narrative’s tone, but the muted color palette makes his illustrations feel oddly inert. The mermaid, her human friend, and Neptune all have fair skin. A thought-provoking work that is not to be missed. (Graphic fantasy. 10-16)

Publishers Weekly (December 19, 2016)
In Wiesner and Napoli’s unsettling tale of self-discovery, a young mermaid who stars in a boardwalk aquarium show begins to question her circumstances after a human girl offers her friendship. Though she can’t talk and has never been outside, Mira-as her new friend Livia christens her-slowly realizes that the show’s domineering owner, Neptune, may not be as benevolent or godlike as he seems. “The scientists will take you to a lab,” he threatens, warning her against being seen. “They’ll cut you open.” With Livia’s encouragement, help from her fellow sea creatures, and her own extra-human powers, Mira delivers herself from her captor. Napoli (Dark Shimmer) and Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) create a plot that crackles, and Wiesner’s graceful, classically proportioned artwork makes the story’s fantastical elements clear and believable. But Neptune’s catalog of classic psychological abuse seems to belong to an edgier tale. Livia’s goofy presence counterbalances the menace (“This is a cheese and lettuce sandwich,” she explains to Mira, holding up a drawing), and Mira’s sidekick-a huge, brooding octopus-offers her the love that Neptune withholds. Ages 10-12. (Mar.)

About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children’s and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

She lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is www.donnajonapoli.com.

About the Illustrator

During David Wiesner’s formative years, the last images he saw before closing his eyes at night were the books, rockets, elephant heads, clocks, and magnifying glasses that decorated the wallpaper of his room. Perhaps it was this decor which awakened his creativity and gave it the dreamlike, imaginative quality so often found in his work.

As a child growing up in suburban New Jersey, Wiesner re-created his world daily in his imagination. His home and his neighborhood became anything from a faraway planet to a prehistoric jungle. When the everyday play stopped, he would follow his imaginary playmates into the pages of books, wandering among dinosaurs in the World Book Encyclopedia. The images before him generated a love of detail, an admiration for the creative process, and a curiosity about the hand behind the drawings.

David Wiesner has illustrated more than twenty award-winning books for young readers. Two of the picture books he both wrote and illustrated became instant classics when they won the prestigious Caldecott Medal: Tuesday in 1992 and The Three Pigs in 2002. Two of his other titles, Sector 7 and Free Fall, are Caldecott Honor Books.  Flotsam, his most recent work, was a New York Times bestseller and was recently named winner of the 2007 Caldecott Medal, making Wiesner only the second person in the award’s long history to have won three times.

Wiesner lives with his wife and their son and daughter in the Philadelphia area, where he continues to create dreamlike and inventive images for books.

His website is www.davidwiesner.com.

Around the Web

Fish Girl on Amazon

Fish Girl on Goodreads

Fish Girl on JLG

Fish Girl Publisher Page

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