Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review - The Fish Who Found the Sea

The Fish Who Found the Sea
by Alan Watts
illustrated by Khoa Le
Date: 2020
Publisher: Sounds True
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A rediscovered treasure for a new generation: the first and only story for children ever written by Alan Watts.

Alan Watts, beloved for bringing a childlike wonder to the spiritual journey, once wrote a story for children. The Fish Who Found the Sea brings this delightful and wise parable to life for a new generation. Presented with new art from award-winning illustrator Khoa Le, here is a story as timely as it is entertaining—sharing a key message about getting into harmony with the flow of life.

In this tale of a tail, we meet a fish with a curiously familiar problem—he’s gotten himself so mixed up that he spends all his time chasing himself in circles! Only the Great Sea knows how to help our poor fish get out of the mess he’s created with his own runaway thoughts. Here is a parable that perfectly captures the wit and wisdom that have made Alan Watts a timeless teacher we will never outgrow.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The fish was sure that if he relaxed the chase for a moment he would plunge headlong into the abyss, and so he redoubled his efforts to save himself, in spite of the fact that he became more and more tired and disgusted every minute.

Soon he saw that he was in a hideous dilemma: he must either fall into the abyss or go on chasing his tail. Both alternatives were equally horrifying.

He waved his fins in panic and prepared to die.

This is not a children's book. It's an illustrated spiritual parable for grownups written by an author who really doesn't seem to understand kids if he thinks that they want to read a story about existential terror that uses words like "obtruded". That sound you hear is lots of tiny feet pounding on the floor as they try to escape this so-called children's storybook.

If it were marketed to adults, I wouldn't have a problem with it. But as it's being marketed to kids, I have to take into account its suitability for the age group. The illustrations are lovely... but the text will go so far over kids' heads as to be essentially meaningless. And for those kids who do understand some of it, it could be scary. The author even seems to appeal to the little worrywarts with the following suggestion:

You know how it is when you start thinking about something you do automatically, such as breathing, or riding a bike: you begin to get confused.

The fish goes on to think he's forgotten how to swim. Just what we need: little kids worrying that they're going to get confused and forget how to breathe.

I'd recommend this to teens and up. It's not a children's book, despite how it's being marketed.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sounds True for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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