“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zebrafish • Middle-grade fiction (illustrated), Graphic novel

by FableVision Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
May 2010 Atheneum Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Ages 10 - 14
How do five kids with nothing in common make it better? A vibrant and slyly witty graphic novel about how a small group of kids can make a big difference.
Story: Purple-haired singing queen Vita has big plans for her rock group, Zebrafish. Luckily, her new-found bandmates have some unique talents. But when Tanya starts missing a lot of rehearsals, Vita realizes that the band has a new goal for their upcoming concert: it’ll be a fundraiser to help support Tanya’s battle with leukemia. As the kids band together, they realize that it truly is possible to “get by with a little help from my friends” (to quote the Beatles).
Story Behind the Story: This line from the book trailer says it all:  "The start of something big usually starts out of something small." A portion of the proceeds from this book goes to Children’s Hospital Boston. Peter H. Reynolds includes an inspiring endnote to get readers involved in making a difference. The listed website features games, webisodes, and stories of hope and action. Plus here's a reading group guide.

ZEBRAFISH will rock your world.  Check out this inspiring video:

Take a peek, too, at this video with illustrator Peter Reynolds as he talks about working with Children's Hospital Boston.

"This book will speak to children about fighting for a cure/treatment for cancer and shows the value of involvement in this important issue."–School Library Journal 

Let's change the world! 

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Aubrey Heusser said...

I borrowed this one from the library, and was happily surprised. It's over the heads of my 1st-3rd graders, but would be great for a middle school level. It's plenty complicated as far as vocabulary & storyline, but the graphic format makes it seem easier, not intimidating at all. The message is great, and it was a quick, fun read. The characters are realistic and relate-able, without the bad attitudes in so much middle grade fiction. I give this one a 5.

Julia Pitau said...

I had hoped to be one of the lucky receivers of this book and was very pleased when it arrived. The book is fun, the artwork is fantastic, and the colors are vibrant. The storyline, however, was a little choppy. For example, when Jay forgets to use his inhaler, I had to return to the beginning of the dodge ball section to “get it”. The author could have either explored inhalers a little more, or saved it for an entirely new book. After reading the “Start Here” section located at the back of the book, and re-reading the story, I found I liked it a lot more!

Picnic Rating: 3

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

M. Battista said...

Although I found this story a little confusing at times I still enjoyed it immensely. It wasn't until Chapter 10 that I realized the young man caring for Vita was indeed her older brother and not her father. The "Domo arigato," "Hercule Poirot" and "amazing techno-dreamcoat" references will be over the heads of our young readers, but I got a kick out of them. I think the author and artist earned the right to have their names on the cover. I don't understand why their names only appear on the title page. Overall I believe our students will enjoy the engaging story and the vivid illustrations.

Rating: 3.5

Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Carol said...

Zebrafish had good graphics and the characters were likable, but I think this one will have a difficult time competing with the quality of graphic novels that are available. It is not that it was not well written, more that there was not enough action to really carry on throughout the book. When the story was over, it was over. I did not feel like I needed to revisit these characters again. With that being said, with all that schools and communities are doing with service learner, this will be a perfect addition to a list of book recommendations for service learning (and the first graphic novel that seemed to fill the void for this purpose).

K-8 librarian

PLLoggerR said...

Zebrafish, by Sharon Emerson is a graphic novel about friends and helping each other. Written in short, choppy phrases bordering on sentences within a graphical context, the story is a quick read. The story seems disconnected, yet, in the end, the threads are drawn together to a conclusion. However, one must imagine most of the details of how or why we got there.
Students are likely to pick this up because of its graphical nature, but I'm not sure they'll come back to it time and again as they do with other graphical novels. Perhaps they will get the message, though, and move outside their spheres to examine why others are the way they are and to help others in need.

Picnic Basket rating - 3.0

Becky Jensen
Peacham Library

Mason R from ID said...

Illustrated novels have made it easier for me to help my reluctant readers get excited about reading. The story in Zebrafish, though simple, covered many social issues, and helped me as a reader understand the importance of being mindful of others' situations. Although some parts were hard to understand because of the multiple characters, I am still looking forward to sharing this with the students in my classroom. I rate this book a Picnic Basket 4.

Heather Hill said...

I enjoyed this novel not only for the format, but also for the messages woven through. At the beginning I thought it was about finding a place and friends so that you could be yourself. Near the end, I realized what Vita was up to with the medical machine, which is an even more important message of global community and service to others. The message at the back from the author ties everything up and may spur kids into action. Zebrafish was a great read with a great message. I give it a 5 out of 5 and will suggest it to some of my 4th and 5th gr. students.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

sbcmom said...

Love the graphic format, but I agree with some of the other reviewers that the story line was occasionally confusing. I had hoped to recommend it to my very reluctant readers, but I think they would have difficulty keeping the story line straight. It did come together at the end, but they would have given up by then. It would work for kids on grade level though. I love the social activism shown by the kids. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the book, but found it hard to follow at times. The jumping between characters and their story line was sometimes confusing. I loved the concept.