Plenty of Fish. An I CAN READ Science Book (No 12). A World’s Work Children’s Book
This is an elementary science book by the award-winning American author Millicent Selsam (1912-1996). Selsam, a trained biologist and high school teacher, wrote over one hundred works for children, most of them science discovery books. Plenty of Fish is part of the ‘I Can Read’ series (there are twenty-six titles listed in the catalogue at the end of this book). The text follows a young boy, Willy, who buys some goldfish. The text shows how to care for goldfish. Willy learns that they must be transferred from their plastic bags to a fish bowl, that they eat fish food, and that they only need one pinch a day. Much of the text focuses on explaining how fish breathe oxygen through their gills. There is an emphasis on Willy’s own discovery of this by observation and reasoning and his father allows him to figure matters out for himself to a significant degree (there is no mother figure and Willy and his father appear to be alone, save for their maid). For example, Willy notices that his fish open and close their mouths and his father tells him they are breathing. He begins an experiment, opening and closing his mouth, to which is father asks ‘Did you really breathe like a fish when you sat there opening and closing your mouth?’ (31). Willy goes back to look at his fish, then tries his own experiment dunking his head in the sink and opening and closing his mouth. After this experiment his father explains that there is air in the fish bowl. Later, his father explains how gills work, but only after Willy has discovered them for himself: ‘If I had more time… I could have worked that out myself’ (47). The text employs humour, like the interlude where Willy decides he will only eat once a day like his fish. His father agrees, only for Willy to appear that night saying ‘Father, I’m hungry. I am not a fish’ (22). The illustrations by acclaimed illustrator Erik Blegvad (1923-2014) feature on every page and relate to the action of the text. They are cross-hatching sketches that use shading in green and red, a colour theme is continued throughout. They are not ‘scientific’ although some images of the fish display its gills. The presence of a kitten is a playful joke Blegvad includes throughout, often to be seen in the vicinity of the fish bowl.
Millicent Selsam. With illustrations by Erik Blegvad.
Second impression 1963.
Place of Publication:
The World’s Work
Date of Publication:
64 pp. ill.
Literature and Education
Information Book, Science, Biology, Fish
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE