Review Blog

Mar 09 2010

One smart fish by Chris Wormell

cover image

Jonathan Cape, 2010. (Ages 3-6) In spite of an entertaining story and vibrant illustrations I felt short changed by this book. Wormell's smart fish can sing, dance, paint and perform, wowing all his friends. However when this fish visits the 'landside' for his holiday he gazes up the beach and longs to explore. Everyone knows fish can't walk, so Smart Fish makes himself some feet and walks up the beach. He is the first fish, indeed creature to walk on the land and although he returns to his friends in the ocean, change has begun. Wormell concludes his story by describing how millions of years later other fish began crawling on their fins and in another few hundred million years they grew feet instead, until eventually people emerged. This brief text is accompanied by a fabulous double page illustration of reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and humans. On one level this is an entertaining fantasy, but on the other Wormell is introducing the concept of evolution. Modification of species, dominant genes, natural selection and the work of Darwin and Mendel are obviously inappropriate in a story for young children. However, somewhere, perhaps as an epilogue, I would have appreciated a mention of Darwin, and even the word 'evolution' to show children that this is not just a fantasy but the story of our very existence. I think Wormell (or perhaps his publisher) misses a trick here, offering a beautifully illustrated story that could have gone one step further to begin to explain to young children the concept of evolution. Claire Larson

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