on December 2, 2002
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.
on March 18, 2003
Socialism?? Entitlement??? My goodness. I have always felt the only drawback of this book is that it is overly simplistic, so I was stunned to see the hysteria in some other reviews.
Books for children this young are meant for parents to use as a teaching tool, and I've used this book to talk about how good it feels to share our gifts and blessings. The wonderful watercolor- and-glitter illustrations capture even wiggly kids' attention. After giving away my son's copy, I'm back to buy another because I'm using it with a class.
Is anyone else catching the irony of those reviewers who warn this book espouses Entitlement by demonstrating the virtues of sharing? I mean, what they are teaching their children -- that no one else is Entitled to what THEY own (sound like the snotty Rainbow Fish at the beginning of the story?) -- is the essence of Entitlement: I've got mine and the rest of you are out of luck. God help us.
on October 6, 2013
I have avoided buying or reading this book for several years because of the many terrible reviews I have read on here and elsewhere, but a friend just passed along the board book edition (c 1996) for my kids and I finally read it. I have absolutely nothing against it. I am not sure how the two versions compare other than I presume that the board book version is shorter and has a condensed story line. I was prepared to hate the book having read such terrible reviews of the general story line, but I feel quite the opposite -- that the message is a nice one and has to do with being kind to others, sharing and being selfless.
It starts out with the Rainbow fish being mean to other fish because of vanity and arrogance, but it is because of this that he has no friends. He discovers, towards the end, that it is not about what you own and what you look like, but who you are inside and the good deeds you can do for others--in this case, sharing some of his precious "possessions" with the other fish--have a meaningful lasting effect on him and other fish.
I have read a negative review stating that it basically encourages uniformity and a lack of personal identity. I completely disagree. By the end, many of his new friends have matching scales but they are displayed in unique places. I read into this to mean that we are all connected and it is in giving to others that we are most humbled and admired, and receive the greatest sense of fulfilment unmatched by physical and material possessions from this kind of generosity and selflessness.
on June 29, 2004
My cousins, who live in a socialist European country, recently visited us in the U.S., and gave this book to my children as a gift. I love my cousins but think this is a horrible book. The message is clear: if you are better than anyone else, or rise above your peers in any way, no one will like you, and you will be lonely and miserable, as well as the target of envy and sometimes hatred. However, if you bring yourself down to their level, or pay them off, you will be most popular! The book reflects the mentality of the socialist, and demonstrates altruism at its worst. Everyone must be the same, and no one can excel at anything or in any way. The rainbow fish teaches children that it is good to strip yourself raw for the benefit of others, who were never your true friends to begin with, but only wanted something from you and based their acceptance of you on what you could provide for them. You know, kind of like that bad friend in school who loves you when you're down and out, but can't stand it when you lose weight and are looking good or happy or successful. Once the rainbow fish has taken off and given away all its beautiful scales, it is no longer the prettiest fish. The other fish, who each got a scale, are not elevated, but rather, they're all dragged down to the lowest common denominator. One scale each. Not enough to make anyone prettier than anyone else -- no one can really shine. It's not about sharing and love, but more like emotional bribery. I give this book one star, only because I have to, and the illustrations are pretty. Steer clear.
on October 15, 2003
Colorful, shiny pages and reading with lots of expression make this a winner at our house. --Spoiler alert--Yes, at first glance this book might appear endorse buying your friends. However, something occurs early on in the story. A little fish approaches Rainbow Fish and asks if he would play with him. That's all he asks. Rainbow Fish is too proud of his beauty and doesn't think he should associate with the little fish, he says some harsh things to the little fish, then swims away. The little fish tells his friends and THEN no one wants to associate with him. The story goes on from there. SO, it was Rainbow Fish's arrogance and pride that cost him friendship-not his unwillingness to share/the others wanting his possessions. Now, at the end of the story Rainbow Fish IS approached again and this time the others want something from him. He shares and everyone is instantly his friend. But, you must consider their first impression of him-how he shunned them. They finally saw that he was nice and willing to share. That's my interpretation and when we read this book together, that's how I explain it.
on September 30, 2003
The author depicts the beautiful Rainbow Fish as constantly and impolitely snubbing the other fish until they no longer want to play with him. Thus, he shares his scales with all the other fish so that he's no longer special and they all look alike. What?! This is not good.
The message should have been that however you look, you should be humble and kind to others, not that you should rid yourself of (or share) all that makes you special and unique. Rainbow Fish should have kept his gorgeous scales and learned some manners. This is a bizarre and disturbing book whose popularity baffles me.
on June 22, 2004
A great children's author (who, for the sake of her privacy, shall remain nameless) once commented that "The Rainbow Fish", was the third in the triumvirate of picture book mediocrity. The first two being, of course, "Love You Forever" and "The Giving Tree". I don't feel like explaining why this statement is not only brilliant but sublime, so instead I'm going to review this seemingly innocent little picture book. Here we have a very dull book with a very poor message. In my humble opinion, it hardly deserves much notice.
Originally a Swiss picture book (who knew?), "Rainbow Fish" tells the tale of a little sparkly fellow below the sea. The Rainbow Fish glitters and glides in the ocean's depths, ignoring the calls of the other fish to come out and play. One day a little fish asks for one of his shiny scales. The Rainbow Fish is not exactly polite in his refusal, but for some reason this is the comment that causes all the other fish to make him a social pariah. The Rainbow Fish is a little upset by this and asks the advice of a wise old octopus. Unfortunately the octopus is of the opinion that Rainbow Fish should give away the very things that make him special. His shiny scales. Once he has given a scale to all the other fishes he'll look exactly like everyone else and be happy. He does and then is. The end.
I suppose if you looked at this book from a religious context it might make a little more sense. But even then the moral would still run along the lines of give-up-your-worldly-possessions-and-everybody-will-like-you. Hm. What makes this book so offensive to some readers is the simple fact that it's is preaching a kind of same = good mentality. Tis better to meld with the crowd than to hold onto that which makes you an individual and unique, it sayeth. Then there are the illustrations to contend with. In an interesting marketing technique, the shiny scales Rainbow Fish sports are small hologram-ish cut-outs that line his body. Little kids will, presumably, see the shiny things on the cover of the book and immediately grab it. But how stand the rest of the illustrations? Certainly the colors in this tale are luminous and lovely. Pfister has developed a lovely watercolor technique wherein the blended shades of the scenes work perfectly within the context of the story. Unfortunately, the actual illustrations themselves are fairly hum drum. Don't expect the breathtaking loveliness of Eric Carle's "Mister Seahorse" or even the originality of a similar seaside tale, Irene Haas's, "The Maggie B.". Characters here never change expression (except that once in a while their little fishy mouths curl either up or down as appropriate). As a gimmick, the shiny scales work well. Just don't pay much attention to anything else in this tale.
The best advice I can give regarding "The Rainbow Fish" is to recommend Leo Lionni's classic picture book, "Swimmy". Like The Rainbow Fish, Swimmy's a little guppy who's different from everyone else. But rather than, oh say, changing his scale color to blend in, Swimmy uses his unique position in society to help those around him while remaining true to himself. A powerful statement that "The Rainbow Fish" sorely lacks. I'm not saying this is the worst picture book ever written, mind you. Just a mediocre one. With all the wonderful picture books out there, why not grab the best and leave the rest? Or, if we're going to take the advice of the Rainbow Fish to heart, do what everyone else is doing and strive for mediocrity. Hey, it worked for him!
on May 18, 2004
We own this book only because my wife ordered it from a book club. Had we looked at the book, we never would have bought it. My two-year old has not seen it, nor will he. He has enough good books. And this book is bad. The book is so bad, destructive, immoral, and wrong that I have trouble figuring out where to start. Well, let's start with the "moral(s)" of the book, which can be summed up as follows: (1) being special is evil, and worthy of hatred; (2) if you do not give your possessions away to others on their demand and pursuant to their coercion, you will be rightfully hated; (3) you will be happy only if you are mediocre; (4) you need to bribe people to be your friends. And the message here is not about sharing. Notice, the Rainbow Fish does not "share" his scales (sharing would imply that his friends were going to give the scales back when they are done.) No, the Rainbow Fish is compelled (by emotional coercion) to give away that which makes him special. What part of this story is supposed to be edifying? It is garbage.
on March 15, 2004
This book has very beautiful drawings and the fish scales shimmer creating a nice effect. But that is where the positives end. The message of this book would be nice if it was truly about sharing but it is not. The fish has to give up his scales to have friends- If he does not he will not have friends.
It makes me think of a bully (little fish) saying to a child (rainbow fish)- 'I will not be your friend unless you give me your lunch money'. And this book takes the side of the bully.
Here is a quote:
"Give a glittering scale to each of the other fish. You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea but you will discover how to be happy" (---so one cannot be happy unless they sacrifice what is important to them?!?).
Also the little fish says to rainbow fish that he just 'wants one little scale' implying that that is the only way to win his friendship.
This story would be great if Rainbow fish decided to share his scales WITHOUT the pressure that it is the ONLY way to win friendships. What would have made a good book would be for rainbow fish to be kind & helpful to win over friendships and not get friends simply by 'buying' them over with his scales.
on January 12, 2004
When sometimes I start believing there is no God certain events show me that I am wrong and renew my faith, such an event must have been some divine intervention that caused my pack this book at the bottom of the large heavy box that contained all my sons old book, ironically, this was box was assembled when my son was only 2 years old, we read it once, packed it up to move into a new home and never found it until the other day when I was going through said box to figure out what I could donate.
When Reagan brought the Soviet Union crashing down I allways wondered where all the Communists/Socialists and all the sympathizers locally and internationally went running to with their tails tucked between thier legs.
Putting my total ignorance aside, this rip van winkle woke up and figured it out all on his own(10 years too late); they became our writers/teachers/professors and poiliticians, it is easy to see your enemy when he is holding a missle aimed at you but not so easy to see him when he is writing a book with the sole purpose to infect a country who existance is the antithesis of communist/socialist proliferation.
Harsh maybe? I think not, especially when it is YOUR children being indoctrinated with this book BY TEACHERS that LOVE this book WHO BELONG to a UNION who constantly changes educational policy that continuously feel sorry for the underachiever and contempt for the overachiever while dragging america slowly to the middle of the Global Bell Curve.
You think your children are going to school to learn to be brilliant? mathematical geniuses? Science Wonks? guess again, they play little RF activities that involve making Rainbow Fish and then YANKING the scales off thier project and giving it to someone else in the class. I know this because my college trained-socialist-teacher-wife did this every years since 1997 not knowing it was a lesson in class-warfare. In my day(1974) you sat down in class, hands folded, did your work, were drilled to death all the while being told that 'education' was your way to get a 'silver scale'. The underachieving students were your future blue collar workers and the smartest were the doctors/lawyers and such everyone accepted their place in life.
Then along comes RF in the nineties a fews years after all that conservative/capitalist/ jingoist culture from the 80's has finally worked its way out and it fills the perfect literary vacuum that existed in child literature.
There is not a sucessfull parent out there today that can claim thier success and ancestors success on socialism and communism while living in this country, in fact, most of you are RAINBOW FISH, and at least 1 millions american want what you have.
Thank goodness that your childs friends have been too stupified to realize that your child and you are RAINBOW FISH and decide to unite against your family.
Please, throw out the Che poster, hang up an american flag and teach your children to be great people yet compassionate, a lot of wealthy people donate to good causes, why not go that route?
This book should have woken up america to what was happenening to thier chidren, but did not. This is the only non-damaged book I have ever thrown out in my whole entire life. This has actually inspired my to write an essay on it, firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a copy.
MY wife no longer uses it in class, my 8 year old son now calls it commy fish.
Wake up parents of america!