CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 6. . . .November 7, 2008
The Octonauts & the Frown Fish.
Meomi. Vicki Wong & Michael Murphy.
San Francisco, CA: Immedium (www.immedium.com), 2008.
36 pp., hardcover, $15.95 (US).
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Reviewed from f&gs.
It was a quiet and rainy afternoon at the bottom of the ocean when...
Professor Inkling was dusting his dust jackets.
Kwazii Kitten was watering her catnip.
Tunip the Vegimal was tossing a salad.
Peso Penguin was pinging...
Tweak Bunny was playing a game.
Captain Barnacles Bear was singling in the rain.
Shellington Sea Otter was ponging.
Sauci Dog was sounding the Octo-Alert!!!
The crew hurried down to HQ to find Sauci monitoring the Octopod's screens anxiously.
"There's a fish with a very big frown outside!" she reported to the others.
"He looks so glum that all the creatures around him are starting to get upset, too!"
"I cant find a fish like him on the Octonet!" Dr. Shellington said excitedly,
"Could he be a new species?"
"Octonauts, we should investigate!" Professor Inkling declared.
Meomi, the design team of Vicki Wong from Vancouver, BC, and Michael Murphy from Los Angeles, CA, has written and illustrated their third book about the troop of eight characters called the Octonauts. In their first book, The Octonauts and the Only Lonely Monster, young readers learned a lesson about friendship and individuality; while in their second book, The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade, readers learned a lesson about not taking friendship for granted. This time, the crew (a brainy octopus, a brave polar bear, a daredevil kitten, a scientific sea otter, a big-hearted penguin, a paddling dog, a glow-in-the dark bunny and a vegimal) try to solve the mystery of the Frown Fish!
After discovering the Frown Fish, the Octonauts search for a solution to the problem of sadness. Since none of the Octonauts can speak Frownese, they decide to solve the problem by finding ways to cheer up the Frown Fish. Each of the Octonauts suggests the activity that makes them happy: Peso plays music; Kwazii has a dress-up party; Sauci takes photographs; Dr. Shellington plays miniature golf; Tweak builds a robo-tank for the Frown Fish; Tunip bakes cookies; and Professor Inkling reads from his favourite book of jokes. However, nothing seems to work because the Frown Fish is still frowning! It is not until Captain Barnacles suggests a bit of exercise that they discover the secret of the Frown Fish. When the fish is bounced upside down, he is not a Frown Fish at all – he is an Upside-Down Catfish who has been smiling all along! As the book ends, the fearless explorers and their new friend are laughing in relief. The ending teaches the reader that it is important to be concerned about the feelings of others. We also learn that different things make different people happy.
The third book in "The Octonauts" series is once again full of colourful and engaging illustrations. As the Octonauts try to cheer up the frowning fish, they share their favourite fun pastimes. We learn about the unique personalities of each of the characters: Sauci Dog loves photography, Dr. Shellington loves miniature golf while Peso Penguin loves to play music. The characters display characteristics to which young children can relate – concern for the feelings of others, seeing the value in simple pleasures, using technology, and appreciating one's friends. An important lesson is taught about caring for the feelings of others. How often do we act without taking into account how others will feel about our actions? How often do we care about others who appear to be sad? Many conflicts could be avoided if we just paid more attention to the feelings of others. Although the book appeals to young children, it has a wry sense of humour which will also appeal to adult readers.
There is always a lot going on in the illustrations which adds visual appeal for the readers. Readers perceive a great deal of this story through the illustrations and not just through the words of the story. As the Octonauts engage in various activities to cheer up the frowning fish, the colours of the illustrations change to reflect these activities. More serious activities, such are creating a robo-tank and reading, are reflected by deeper colours of purple and brown. However, light-hearted activities, like miniature golf and music, are portrayed in brighter colours of pink and orange. Several of the pages turn the layout upside down, thereby forcing the reader to turn the book upside down as well. All in all, the book engages the readers through its visual appeal!
Although this third book in the series does follow the successful Octonauts formula a bit too closely, it still manages to tell an interesting story which teaches readers a valuable lesson about caring for the feelings of others. The fact that Meomi are the designers of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic mascots will make this book appealing to readers anticipating Canada's involvement in the Olympics. This book could be used as a read aloud for children at home and with students in primary classrooms. Meomi's story will inspire discussion about issues as far ranging as: underwater creatures, happiness, sadness, feelings, music, and reading.
Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.
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