Fish by Brendan Kearney

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Penguin Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780241439470.
(Ages: 4-8) As with the recent publication Mama Ocean this book addresses the significant problem of ocean pollution, however, Fish takes a much more didactic approach, explaining to the reader exactly what we can do to resolve and reverse the problem. The problem and solution is encased within the story of elderly fisherman Finn and his quest to catch a fish for dinner. We get early clues to what is coming, with rubbish floating in the water and some unhappy seals grappling with plastic bags under the water. Finn, with his dog Skip for company, is having absolutely no luck. There are no fish biting in their favourite fishing spot. 'Suddenly, Skip spotted something bobbing in the waves . . . and with a huge SPLASH he jumped in to investigate'. A double-page spread shows the reader the enormity of the situation; there is rubbish of every kind hiding just under the surface. Finn works to scoop out as much of the rubbish as he can and before long the small boat is inundated. Hungry and tired they head to shore and are met by a group of young children who offer their help. 'We're beach cleaners' the girl explained. 'We pick up litter that has been washed ashore by the tide, so that it doesn't get swept back into the sea'. What follows is the children explaining to Finn why rubbish, especially plastic, is so destructive to the ocean and what we can do on a simple level to help (recycling, repairing and reusing, avoiding single-use plastics and spreading these messages).
The book hints at the other significant ocean problem of unsustainable fishing with the juxtaposition of the huge fishing boats in the marina next to Finn's tiny wooden boat, but this is not directly addressed. It could be a conversation starter though. There is a nice message here for children about their ability to influence attitudes and make a difference in the world. It also reflects the current climate where young people are taking a stand for the environment, educating older people and becoming harbingers of change. Unfortunately, the didactic portion of the book feels a little tacked on to the actual story and the seemingly instant revival of the ocean a little too optimistic. Themes: Ocean pollution, Rubbish and recycling.
Nicole Nelson