Heated competition and the spirit of friendship run neck and neck in this undersea athletic event.
American football coach Vince Lombardi, to whom the (borrowed) sentiment that, “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” is most often attributed, might disapprove of the message of this book. Indeed, there are mixed messages aplenty to be found here. The story takes place on “Reef Day,” an undersea event full of fun, games, and, most importantly, the race around the reef. When Fang the shark exclaims, “I can’t wait to compete in the race around the reef,” best friend Nugget, a minnow, replies, “Count me in!” The pair and three more of the best swimmers around set off to see who’s fastest. When the clown fish quits and the two tuna are caught in a whirlpool, only Nugget and Fang remain. “They were fin and fin—but who would finish first?” This suspenseful buildup is a bit of a cheat, though. “Nugget and Fang knew just what to do. They crossed the finish line the way they did everything else—together!” That sweet message about friendship arguably denies kids some valuable lessons: Skills and abilities vary individually, and gracefully winning or losing is its own art form. On the plus side, the illustrations are colorful, the characters appealing, and sliding and turning elements add a hands-on aspect kids will love.
This buddy romp is more of a fixed race. (Board book. 1-4)