THE WOODEN FISH by Cao Wenxuan


by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 9
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A sentient wooden post ponders its lonely existence.

Running alongside painted grassy hills topped with white houses and rainbow-hued trees, “there was a great river flowing all year round.…The villagers had planned to build a bridge over the river, but for some strange reason, only one wooden post was ever put up.” Elongated sentences narrate the post’s initial dreams of being surrounded by fellow wooden posts topped with happy children clad in white, with some dancing around with flutes and wings. Sadly, the post wakes up to its fate that a bridge will never be built and grows jealous of the companionship that the stars and trees enjoy nearby. Visits from an egret, a fisherman, and a shepherd boy mitigate the solitude. Yet each happy moment is accompanied by pain, with the egret sharpening its claws on the post, the fisherman singing mournfully, and the shepherd boy throwing stones at the post from the shore. Gong’s textured, moody paintings swirl with movement when a flood snatches up the shepherd boy and he’s carried “away by the strong current!” The post saves the boy and ends up uprooted from its spot, floating to an open-ended fate. Cao’s artful storytelling is compelling and contemplatively paced, but it feels unbalanced with its hyperfocus on the darkness of desolation. Human characters all appear to be Chinese.

A whimsically morose story that is elevated by its illustrations. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-76036-064-1
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Starfish Bay
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2019


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