Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles: Fish Finelli, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles: Fish Finelli, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Bright, likable boy anchors fun seaside mystery adventure.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Light history on Captain William Kidd and legends surrounding his supposed lost treasure, plus a wealth of facts and explanations on photosynthesis, Nikola Tesla, emus, shipbuilding, and more.

Positive Messages

Fish and his friends see themselves as a team: A challenge to one is a challenge to all, and they work together to help Fish make good on his bet. Loyal almost to a fault, they support each other every step of the way. They also have good relationships with adults in their lives, from their parents to key people in the community. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fish accepts an outrageous bet but doesn't try to squirm out of it. He and his friends do some questionable things, including trespassing and spying, but they don't cause harm, and ultimately they choose to do the right thing. 

 

Violence & Scariness

A bully harasses other kids and locks someone in a basement. Taunting leads to a minor physical altercation. Stories of a haunting curse add some spooky chills.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that E.S. Farber's Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles is a strong start to the engaging, easy-to-read Fish Finelli series. It has some elements of classic small-town mystery series (think Hardy Boys) with a smart twist: quick sidebars and asides explain scientific ideas, history, and cool facts without slowing down the adventure. Quick chapters, charming illustrations, and brightly written text will help lure in reluctant readers. The young characters are well-drawn and quickly feel like familiar friends. Unfortunately, one of Fish's friends is the stereotypical chubby kid played as a comic foil, eating candy and sweets in nearly every scene.

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What's the story?

Norman "Fish" Finelli has been carefully saving money to buy a more powerful engine for his boat. But when he's baited by Bryce Billings, Fish bets his savings by boasting he'll find Captain Kidd's treasure. Fish and his friends, Roger and T.J., sneak into the library and onto a private island to search for the legendary booty. Even as they cover tantalizing clues, it becomes clear they aren't the only ones seeking the treasure.

Is it any good?

SEAGULLS DON'T EAT PICKLES introduces a very smart and good-hearted hero for tween readers. Fish can be hotheaded, but his common sense, charisma, and resourcefulness see him through. The story is a classic small-town mystery tale. Fish and his two best friends roam the streets and waters of Whooping Hollow in search of treasure, complete with eccentric local characters, mysterious legends, and curious history. Jason Beene's full-page, grayscale illustrations pair well with E.S. Farber's fun storytelling style.

This is an especially good choice for inquisitive kids: The story is peppered with factoids on such diverse subjects as the prevalence of blue lobsters and the history of the microwave. There's plenty of science in this fun book, which shows how much fun and adventure can be found on your own doorstep.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coping with bullies. Fish is pretty levelheaded, except when he's taunted by Bryce. What could he do differently?

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  • Do you think T.J., portrayed as overweight and endlessly eating candy, is a realistic character? Have you seen this stereotype in other books, movies, or TV shows?

  • Fish and his friends roam town freely and have a lot of independence. Do you think their experience is typical?

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