A fish learns how to identify a good friend—and how to become one himself—in this deceptively simple story geared toward preschoolers.
Beginning with the classic fairy-tale opening, the story tells of a fish named Tyler and his friend Dolphin. Dolphin can do amazing water tricks. Tyler envies his friend’s ability and decides to learn tricks himself. But it doesn’t come easily. When Dolphin finds Tyler, the fish is ready to give up. Dolphin offers to help Tyler learn, and after practicing every day, Tyler succeeds. Cash doesn’t beat her audience over the head with this lesson, but it’s valuable, especially for preschoolers, to hear that practice feeds success. Without belaboring the point, the story moves to the next conflict. Tyler’s so thrilled with doing tricks, he stops paying attention to Dolphin. When Tyler begins to get bored of showing off, he realizes that the new friends who have admired him only like him for his skill, not his personality. Tyler seeks out Dolphin and apologizes for not being a very good friend. The pair have an open discussion about their feelings and can be friends again. Cash uses simple sentences and a limited vocabulary to create a straightforward narrative that tackles problems preschoolers encounter: how to be good at something, how to be a good friend, and how to value people who like you because you’re you. The illustrations appear to be hand-drawn marker-and-crayon creations; the art looks like it could come out of an elementary classroom, and preschoolers will find a great deal of familiarity in the character designs. They may well aim to copy the colors and expressions of Tyler and Dolphin in their own work. Newly independent readers in lower elementary school will appreciate the repeated words from sentence to sentence, and lap readers will fall into the cadence as their parents (or preschool teachers) read aloud.
A useful picture book on friendship that succeeds because of, not despite, its simplicity.