Little Black Fish wants to explore beyond the small stream that is his home, but his mother and their neighbors discourage him and even make fun of his curiosity and openness to wonder.
In fact, one fish before him has been killed for daring to befriend a snail. But supported by other young fish, Little Black Fish strikes off into the river, meeting its varied denizens in the manner of a folktale. As Little Black Fish swims, a lizard gives him a small knife and some advice on how to escape a pelican. Little Black Fish stops to watch the moon and a doe escaping from a hunter and to talk to a group of tiny fish who warn him about the open sea. But Little Black Fish keeps going, and as he nears the sea, he is snatched up, first by a malicious pelican and then by a seabird, in whose gullet he meets another small fish. Told in a frame story by a grandmother fish to her 12,000 grandchildren, Little Black Fish’s adventure teaches them the importance of unity in the face of struggle and integrity and independence even if it means risking everything. The text-heavy pages are decorated with bold, black- and red-dominated prints.
First published in Farsi in 1968 and banned in pre-revolutionary Iran, Behrangi and Mesghali’s fable is an ode to a past filled with struggles for liberation and an inspiration for the many battles ahead. (Picture book. 5-12)