Please, Mr Magic Fish, has a familiar folk-tale theme – people who are too greedy, never prosper. It is told in a lively, engaging and deceptively simple way. The author uses words and illustrations to change the mood of the tale, as the wishes of its characters, Jack and Liz, become more and more extravagant. The fact that they forget to say ‘thank you’, as their demands increase, is also beautifully illustrated. The fish’s face sends a clear message to the reader!
I wasn’t expecting to be particularly drawn to this book, as there are so many other good variations on traditional tales. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised! Not only by the storyline and the ending but also by the, ‘about the story’ notes, at the back of the book.
The subtlety of the writing is demonstrated in the imagery of the angry sea; as the fish gets more frustrated with the greedy couple, the ferocity of the sea increases.
Souhami uses her, ‘about the story’ notes, to acknowledge that this book does play into many of the stereotypes that traditional tales are renowned for, i.e. a greedy, nagging wife and a hen-pecked husband. As it is a ‘version’ of an older story, it is to be expected. In doing so, though, I think the author gives the reader a space to open up discussions about this theme within the classroom. This can only be a good thing and is why I think this book has a broad age appeal.
Souhami also explains why she ended the story in the way that she did. I think some readers will like it. Perhaps some traditional tale purists will not!
Overall, I liked Please, Mr Magic Fish a lot! It is a wonderful independent and read-aloud story, which children will most definitely love while learning a lesson or two about the perils of wanting too much!
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