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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sophie's Fish, written by A. E. Cannon and illustrated by Lee White. Viking, Penguin. 2012. $17.00 ages 4 and up

Now that I'm waiting for
Sophie to bring Yo-Yo
to my house, I am very
I don't know anything
about taking care of a

I think we all know a Jake...he is a bit quirky and anxious. He wants to be a good friend and in doing so, agrees to be the caregiver for Sophie's fish while she visits her gram. He says yes, and then wonders how hard the job might really be.

Before he can get his head around that question, his imagination runs amok...and his brain fills with worry. He knows nothing about fish; so why does he think he can take care of Yo-Yo?  Every passing minute fills his head with unlimited scenarios that might lead to difficulty:

"What if Yo-Yo gets hungry and wants a snack? What kind of snacks do fish like to eat?"

Little ones will be answering the questions with characteristic aplomb; those a bit older might wonder some of the same things. Not likely with the same dogged concerns as Jake has about every aspect of helping his friend.

Lee White's accompanying illustrations had me totally and completely captivated. He uses ink, watercolor and collage elements to attract attention and add to the dilemma that Jake has created for himself. I loved watching the minute hand of the clock move slowly over thirty minutes while he realizes what he has done, and concerns himself with his decision and its repercussions.  The perspectives are constantly changing, the antics of his imagined troublesome charge are too funny for words...the books being read at bedtime are Charlotte's Tank, Herring Potter and The Invention of Catfish Cabret. What fun is that? Following this unbridled worrying, Jake makes an uncomfortable decision:

"Here's what I think. When Sophie rings my doorbell, I'll tell her to take Yo-Yo back home. No fish allowed in this house, I'll say. This house is a fish-free zone."

After all of his wild imaginings and the painful decision to disappoint a friend, Sophie finally arrives with Yo-Yo and the very simple instructions for his care. Jake relaxes and begins to think that he can do it.

Then the piece de resistance for young readers - a surprise ending! Wonderful.

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