Two animal fathers form an unusual friendship in this quirky but touching picture book from author Schaufeld and illustrator Schwarz (The Lollipop Tree, 2013).
Larry is a bald eagle guarding his egg in a tall tree. Bob is a smallmouth bass, “protecting 19,003 eggs” in the river below. When Larry catches Bob, the fish doesn’t simply accept his fate as a meal; he appeals to Larry, “dad to dad,” agreeing to let the eagle eat him in one year, after his own fry are grown. Larry is skeptical but makes the deal, and ultimately, this decision saves the life of his chick, Larry Junior, whom Bob later rescues when he falls into the river. When Bob finally goes to meet his fate, Larry can’t eat him—after all, the fish saved his son. Instead, they form an unlikely friendship. The eagle confesses that, as a solitary bird, he feels lonely, and Bob, despite being surrounded by other fish, reveals that he feels the same. For years, the predator and prey meet at a rock, swim and fly upstream together, and talk about their problems. But eventually, Bob’s age catches up with him, and he asks Larry to take him on one last flight. Overall, this is a touching story, and Schaufeld tells it in a calm, melodic style. The placement of the two male characters as caregivers and primary parents puts a nice spin on gender expectations. Schwarz’s realistic paintings are beautifully rendered and include some exquisite landscapes. Kids will enjoy finding the dragonfly that Schwarz has hidden on each page, but adults will appreciate the illustrator’s unique eye; for example, several paintings show the fish’s perspective from underwater, and the textured results are suitable for framing.
A well-constructed book that depicts a healthy male friendship.