Operation Fireball: Fish Finelli, Book 2

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Operation Fireball: Fish Finelli, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Clever underdog sparkles in winning adventure.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Fish is a helpfully knowledgeable narrator, explaining nautical terms and referencing intriguing facts and bits of history, including mention of a 1942 German plot that led to a U-boat landing in New York. Sidebars offer interested readers facts on Thomas Edison, widow's walks, planing, lightning, and more.

 

Positive Messages

Perseverance and fair play are celebrated through Fish's quest to win the race. Strong messages about working as a team, displaying good sportsmanship, and doing the right thing. 

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Confident Fish is generally very responsible. He takes maritime safety rules seriously, and, when he disregards safety in a bid to beat Bryce, he acknowledges that he's letting his emotions get the better of him. He gets a late start in the race because he helps another racer adjust a motor. His friends collaborate as a team. Both winners and losers (aside from Bryce) show great sportsmanship. When Fish and his friends get in trouble for breaking rules and putting themselves in danger, they accept the consequences -- mostly a lot of chores -- with good humor. There's some humanizing insight into why Bryce is so abrasive. Adults give children room to experiment, succeed, and fail but also hold them accountable for their behavior.

Violence & Scariness

Several boys on a boat are rescued by Fish and his friends in a dangerous storm. The boys are spooked by rumors about children who disappeared from Get Lost Island.

Language

There's typical tween teasing. Sometimes the words are from a bully and sting more, but there's nothing stronger than "freak," birdbrain," and "dork."

 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Operation Fireball is a feel-good chapter book perfect for reluctant readers, particularly boys. Fish Finelli is smart and grounded, finding everyday adventure with loyal friends. Class friction underlies the central conflict, which is driven by a bully who's more of a taunting rival than a menacing threat. Sidebars offer fun facts and explainers on topics including oysters, lightning, and compasses.

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What's the story?

Fish Finelli desperately wants to win the Captain Kid Classic boat race -- for bragging rights, sure, but also to finally put sneering Bryce Billings in his place. He's sure he can skillfully handle the Fireball, an old whaler he and his friends have been fixing up, but his best effort might not be enough to win against Bryce's powerful (and expensive) Viper. But Fish has some solid advantages: ingenuity, know-how, and helpful friends. But he's so focused on going head to head with his rival, he's startled to discover on race day that there's a dark horse in the running.

Is it any good?

OPERATION FIREBALL, the second book starring the engaging Fish Finelli, has a slightly old-fashioned style but feels fresh and fun. Fish is easy to relate to, the kind of kid anyone would want as a friend. Given so many books centered on tween boys who chafe at school, it's refreshing to have a protagonist who's capable, smart, and very likable: His tendency to delve into facts and explanations is never show-offy, and his friends enjoy him. The only sour note is the use of a pudgy boy who snacks constantly as an easy comic target.

Jason Beene's full-page grayscale artwork and illustrated sidebars will help win over readers reluctant to dive into text-heavy chapter books. The story's ending sets up the next installment: Fish vows to enter a reputed haunted house to prove his bravery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Fish tries repeatedly to help his rivals, including Bryce and the mysterious racer. Would you do the same?

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  • There are lots of books about tween boys who don't like or do well in school. How is Fish Finelli different?

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  • Do you find Bryce a sympathetic character? What about Clementine?

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