Prather’s Pick: 'The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile' is full of aquatic fun

Margaret Wise Brown, author of classics “Goodnight Moon” and “Runaway Bunny,” has written a new picture book for young children. “The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile” was illustrated by Henry Fisher.

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Diane Prather

Children will be attracted to the artwork from the time they pick up the book because the fish and some of the plants on the book’s cover actually sparkle. The text of the book is done in delightful verse, which sometimes is printed in a wavelike motion, and on one page, it runs along the line from a fishing pole.

As the book opens, a father and two children, a girl and boy, are off to fish. They fish “down in the sea a mile.” There are crabs, octopi, sea horses and fish of every size, shape and color at that depth. What the father and children are searching for, however, is the fish with the deep sea smile.

One fish comes up from the deep water. He has big blue-green eyes and three whiskers on each side of his face. The orange fish is big and orange, but he doesn’t have a deep sea smile.

Neither does the next fish that pops up from the water. He’s a long fish, resembling a shark, with a snout and a slender tail area that blossoms out into a great big tail fin with electric lights on it. This green and yellow-green fish is mighty impressive, but he isn’t the fish with the deep sea smile. (This fish causes clouds to appear and lightning to strike, and the little girl holds an umbrella over her head.)

And that’s not all. A fish with terrible teeth pops out of the water. So does a gray fish with a strong jaw. Another fish looks around with eyes on stalks; still another red fish has claws that resemble those of a lobster. And there are more fish, but although they fish and fish, the three humans in the boat can’t find the fish with the deep sea smile.

During the night, the stars and moon are out pretty and bright when the boat floats right up to some icebergs with penguins perched on one of them. It’s pretty clear that the fishing has gone on for “many and many a mile,” but will father and his children ever find the fish with the deep sea smile?

One illustration in the book, done on a two-page spread, especially is fun because the illustrator has drawn the movements of the boat as it passes two islands. The reader can follow the dotted lines and arrows to trace the boat’s travels — and those of a seagull, too. At one point, the boy loses his hat and has to pull it back in with a net. At another, the little girl goes snorkeling. What fun!

The artwork in this book is intriguing. Some of it appears to be cut-and-paste, and other pages are done by another method. All of it is brightly colored. The illustrator, Henry Fisher, is an award-winning designer, art director and children’s book illustrator. He lives in London.

The author, Margaret Wise Brown, has written hundreds of stories and poems for children.

“The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile” is published by Parragon Books (2013). It costs about $7.99 in hardcover.

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