________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005


The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.

Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Dave McKeen.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 1997/2004.
58 pp., cloth, $23.95. (Includes a CD.)
ISBN 0-06-058701-6.

Subject Headings:
Brothers and sisters - Fiction.
Fathers - Fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 5 / Ages 5-10.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

**** /4

As a kid, have you ever said or done anything you regretted or wanted to take back - or that led to you getting into trouble with your parents? If you fall into this category, like many children do, then this hilarious story is for you and many young readers.
When Nathan comes over to visit with two goldfish, named Sawney and Beaney, the central character of this story attempts to forge a trade, but, after offering numerous possibilities, there is nothing that seems to appeal to his friend Nathan, until...

I thought for a bit

Some people have great ideas maybe once or twice in their life, and then they discover electricity or fire or outer space or something. I mean the kind of ideas that change the whole world. Some people never have them at all. I get them two or three times a week.

"I'll swap you my dad," I said.

"Oh-oh,” said my little sister.

"That's not a fair swap," said Nathan. I've got two goldfish, and you've only got one dad.


internal art

     Once his father's size is pointed out, Dad becomes the ultimate bargaining chip. The deal is completed in humorous fashion with the boy's sister offering her own perceptive but annoying comments. When mother returns, she sends her son and daughter to retrieve their father which becomes a complicated task considering their dad has since been traded many times over for a variety of items. After all, "He wasn't very exciting. All he did was read the paper."
     The charming, but acerbic sibling relationship rings true throughout the amusing search for dad and the ending is priceless!

     The creative partnership of Gaiman and Mckean, who have previously produced graphic novels, really works well here. The text gives the appearance of hand printing, and much of the dialogue appears in balloons, reflective of the comic book genre. Though some of the text is bursting though these balloons and, at times, is difficult to read or follow because of the wild backgrounds, it is worth the effort because of its fresh humour and wonderful childhood logic.

     The lively dialogue fits well with the expressive illustrations. Although some readers might find these quirky pictures a bit dark, they are highly original and visually rewarding. The ink sketches on watercolour backgrounds utilizing a blend of mixed media and photography are full of odd details and can be a great source of amusement for readers. From the title page on, these innovative line drawings and colourful montages will surprise and delight.

     This new edition, which was first published in 1997 and was Newsweek's Children's Book of the year, features amazing new cover art, an enhanced CD with the author reading the story, and an afterword by Gaiman explaining how this story came to be.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen teaches courses in children’s literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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