The Little Red Fish
by Tae-Eun Yoo

Tae-Eun Yoo's The Little Red Fish

Children's book review by Sarah Denslow

Best for ages 3-6, but should be enjoyed by all!

A first library visit can be an exciting and magical experience, and a young boy’s first trip to the library in The Little Red Fish is all that and more.

JeJe’s grandfather works at a library in the middle of the forest; one day JeJe is allowed to accompany his grandfather to work. JeJe’s little red fish comes too.

The young boy is fascinated by the vast number of books and by the cool, dimly lit atmosphere he finds among the shelves. Nevertheless, he falls asleep after reading a book to his fish, but when he wakes up – the fish bowl is empty and his fish is gone! Review continues below.

collaged images from The Little Red Fish

If you hadn’t already figured out that there are magical elements to The Little Red Fish, it becomes obvious now. In his search for his fish, JeJe opens a book and dozens of fish pour out. He himself falls into the book and with help from a passing bird, finds his fish swimming in the ocean.

JeJe and the fish return to the library floor then, finding that it’s time to go home. Was it all a dream, or did JeJe really have a magical adventure in the library? Either way, the story illustrates the power of books (and libraries) to awaken the imagination. While a child’s trip to the local library may not involve an actual fantastic adventure, it can be as exciting as one.

The part of the story where JeJe is inside the book is told only through the beautiful illustrations, which are done almost exclusively in sepia tones; only the fish and an occasional book are red. Although many children’s books go for bright colors rather than substance, The Little Red Fish is a welcome respite from that trend: the story is wonderfully imaginative, and the drawings are gorgeous without being an overwhelming riot of color.

The Little Red Fish is a story that can be read on many levels and many, many times. Although I read it a lot with an 18-month-old (and both she and I love it!), it’s probably best for ages 3-6.

More children's books set in foreign places.

Read more of Sarah's reviews.

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