Right from the title page, Freedman’s latest makes a splash.
Atop a black-and-white stack of closed books sits one open book with blue pages fluttering like waves. A yellow fishtail disappears into the page, splashing water into the air above the books. This book happens to be a watery world (fish tank?) where, every day, Snail waits for Fish “to come home with a story.” Fish offers one with “a whole ocean, and a secret treasure, and a pirate ship”—but rather than telling it, “I want to show you this time, Snail!” Nope—Snail won’t go. They fight; Fish departs. Highlighted against the closed books and unobtrusive, black-and-white bookshelves in the background, Fish and Snail’s watercolor world looks clear and fine. But with Fish gone, “[h]ow can this be The Story of Fish & Snail?” Snail peers downward over the edge of the towering pile of books, where Fish has disappeared with a quiet “plimp.” Fish’s body, far below, appears murkily underwater inside the daunting new book. “F-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-S-H!” cries Snail, launching bravely into the air. Water splashes the whole height of the pile as Snail plunges into the new book. Fish peeps around a page’s corner, ready for reconciliation and adventure. Texture, scale and angle accentuate the exciting difference between the in-book worlds and the pale library background.
This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty. (Picture book. 3-7)