Louis the Fish
Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980
Still shying away from the season here, I am always being asked if I'm a vintage snob as far as children's books go, and the answer is a resounding NO. Although I do favor books with some amount of age, there are plenty of authors and illustrators both the boy and I are crazy about... Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series has singlehandedly cemented my son as a reader. He will ALWAYS pick up and read aloud one of these books on his own with zero cajoling, and I'm only sorry there aren't more of them. After one read the boy pretty much has them memorized, so the challenge is gone. But really, these books get genuine laughs from my son... and not wimpy chuckles, but full, robust belly laughs that are contagious and loud and true. His favorite (of course) is none other than There Is A Bird on Your Head!, but you probably could've figured that out on your own.
And speaking of more contemporary books... One of my son's all time favorites ever is still Hey Al! created by the sometime Yorinks and Egielski team. When I first started reading their books to my son when he was a baby, I didn't really understand how their humor and childhood would combine, but over the past few years, their stories have grown into some of my favorites. Seriously, Hey Al! will probably be the one book my son selects to take to college with him, and this one may not be that far behind in the love department.
Centering on a butcher who hates meat, the tale is classic and full of magic and mystery and, as such, begins...
One day last spring, Louis, a butcher, turned into a fish.
Silvery scales. Big lips. A tail. A salmon.
I love it when a book gives away the big finish up front. It means there's far more to the story that anything a twist of an ending could cover up. Louis is leading a life passed down to him from his grandfather to his father. He is not happy. He would do anything to get away from meat, so he falls in love with fish. He loves the way they look, the way they swim... he loves to draw fish. He loves fish so much that he eventually becomes one. Trust me, an unfulfilled butcher makes for a very happy fish.
To me this book begs children to break out of their own mold. To think with a creative mind and heart, and to believe in something with all they have inside of them. Plus the illustrations are detailed and fabulous. I particularly love the depiction of a nightmare where Louis is being terrorized by cuts and sausages.
This book makes me happy. This book makes my son extremely happy.
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