Fish Girl

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Fish Girl Book Poster Image
Mermaid tries to escape captivity in gorgeous graphic novel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Fish Girl offers lessons in assertiveness, in standing up for your personal freedom.

Positive messages

No one should inflict captivity on another human being. Friends can work together to support each other in times of need. Every person needs a sense of independence.

Positive role models & representations

At the beginning of Fish Girl, the main character doesn't even know her own name. She begins to question her captivity and finds the courage to slip out of her tank at night. Her friend Livia helps her find the courage to escape.

Violence

Mira summons a devastating storm that destroys property but does not physically harm anyone. A somewhat creepy male teen follows Fish Girl around before he's struck by a wave.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fish Girl is a graphic novel co-written by Donna Jo Napoli and three-time Caldecott Medalist (and illustrator) David Wiesner. It depicts a teen mermaid's attempt to escape from captivity. Violence is limited to the conjuring of a destructive storm. There's no objectionable language, sexual content, or substance use.

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What's the story?

In FISH GIRL, the nameless protagonist spends her days tantalizing tourists at her father's seaside attraction. Visitors to her aquarium only get a glimpse of her in the tank, but one girl in particular, Livia, wants to know more about the mermaid. Emboldened by their friendship, Fish Girl finds temporary means of escape. But is there a way for her to be truly free and independent?

Is it any good?

Gorgeous underwater visuals distinguish this understated tale of a young woman testing the boundaries of freedom. Fish Girl moves at a measured pace, relishing small moments rather than outsized gestures. David Wiesner's detailed, immersive art may be the big draw for many readers, but Donna Jo Napoli's script is sensitive and involving. Anyone who dreams of living under the sea will be captivated by this unusual graphic novel.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Fish Girl updates the story of The Little Mermaid. Why are readers interested in mermaids?

  • Fish Girl begins to suspect that her father doesn't have her best interests in mind. How can greed cause bitterness and mistrust in a family?

  • What kinds of stories work best as graphic novels? What kinds of effects can the medium achieve that are more difficult in prose alone?

Book details

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