Two fish in separate bowls find a way to communicate across a chasm in a rhyming, bilingual picture book.
A lonely fish depicted in a black-and-white fishbowl that contains only sand, a watercolor palette, and brush wonders what exists outside that tiny world. When another fish, in a matching bowl on the other side of a few books, appears to reach out, the first is inspired to paint what’s in her imagination. Her world—and the illustrations—go rainbow-fantasy, with scene after scene of whimsy rendered in brilliant hues. The two fish, joined only in their dreams, learn that “The world is more than just two fish!” It’s a lovely, mind-expanding idea for young readers, and the shift from black and white to color is a clever conceit. But the change comes 16 pages into a 32-page book, and in the time it takes to get there, the visuals feel flat and undernourished. More problematic is that Tafolla’s Spanish translation, which accompanies each passage of English, tends to outshine its lead-in. Bilingual readers will notice that the rhymes are not direct translations; in order to make them work in each language, different imagery and turns of phrases are used, and the English just doesn’t match up, either in terms of the quality of the writing or the imagery it conveys.
A bit of a bust in English, but if nothing else, Spanish-literate readers will get an evocative take on two fish and their shared vision of a world they’ll never see. (Bilingual picture book. 4-8)