Friday, February 24, 2017

Fish Girl by David Wiesner & Donna Jo Napoli

Fish Girl is an incredible collaboration between Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner. A modern-day fairy tale told as a graphic novel, Wiesner’s illustrations show the reader a house that is also an aquarium, known as “Ocean Wonders,” and inside Ocean Wonders lives Fish Girl. Napoli’s words accompany the illustrations, giving the glimpse into the mind of Fish Girl, who cannot talk. There is a room, perfectly preserved underwater, and visitors to the aquarium try to catch a glimpse of the elusive mermaid while “Neptune” swings a trident that controls the waves, calling out:

“The Fish Girl! She is the mystery that lives in that lovely room. Look at her beautiful dresses and jewelry--all underwater! The Fish Girl! What is she? Is she fish or is she girl? You are fortunate to be here, for she is the last of her kind, and she can be seen only at Ocean Wonders!”

This is the only world that Fish Girl has ever known. Her only friends are the other fish in the aquarium, and an orange octopus. If, during visiting hours, she does a good job swimming around so that she’s not seen, but gives curious visitors a glimpse of her tail, Neptune rewards her with a story of how he rescued her when she was a baby. When Livia, a girl about the same age as Fish Girl goes to the restricted area of the aquarium, she actually sees the mermaid. Fish Girl is also curious about the human girl, and Livia gives her a name: Mira. Mira and Livia become friends, and Mira starts to see Neptune for who he really is: a fraud. How can she escape her house tank, when Neptune controls the air filter, the water, and her food? Mira starts to yearn for real friendships after meeting Livia, and begins to take her destiny in her own hands.

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