A pufferfish gets an invitation that triggers his whirling anxieties in this picture book.
Bremner the pufferfish is a mascot of Ripley’s Aquarium, and, believe it or not, he has a bad case of social angst. He’s been invited to a party, but instead of looking forward to it, he’s overcome with worries. What if he’s the only guest, or the only one who’s nervous, or no one will talk to him? Most of all: What if he puffs up? “Don’t puff up. Don’t puff up. Don’t puff up,” he pleads with himself. Arriving, he sees a roomful of assorted sea life, plus party hats, a shark piñata, and yummy treats. Sure enough, Bremner starts to puff and—in sympathy or reaction—so do the other guests. But they laugh it off, the pictures suggest, and Bremner relaxes. (Although interpreting this from the two-page sequence of wordless illustrations is a little difficult.) Everyone returns to normal size and has a great time. In their work, Bolin (Abigail Read & Play! Activity Book, 2013) and debut author Firpi deftly capture the kinds of concerns kids have about social situations: What if I cry? What if I wet my pants? What if no one likes me? By showing that Bremner’s worst nightmare comes true, but he’s still made welcome, they put the focus on managing problems rather than avoiding them. The images by debut illustrator Graziano provide brightness, color, and wit that help to balance Bremner’s fear.
An amusing way to teach kids that it’s OK to make mistakes—and still have fun.