Children’s Book Review: “Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish” by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes (1986)

My wife found this book in the kindergarten library last month, and after having read it to the kids the night before, she told me its story over lunch the next day. Even by this mere recollection of plot—for I had never heard Ordinary Amos before—I was immediately hooked (pun intended) by the book’s unique concept. The Fernandes couple twists the familiar household scene of a long-neglected fishbowl filled of bored and ignored goldfish, by considering what would happen if the tables were suddenly turned. Poor Ordinary Amos is the victim of such an experiment, for it’s he who gets caught by a fish and encased in a young fish-boy’s “person bowl,” only to be forgotten shortly after his newness wears off.

This tale proves to be an excellent teaching opportunity for parents who want to discuss responsibility, diligence, and taking care of one’s pets with their children. The ultimate punishment for the careless boy-fish is that his parents take away his responsibility, his pet, thought due to viewpoint, that possible punishment would have to pointed out explicitly to the child. Although the story does mention the death of pet, the fact that pet-person died due to neglect suggests that it’s not quite the best platform for talking about death in general or the death of a pet specifically. In fact, using this book when Fido dies of natural causes might instill undeserved regret or self-blame in young child’s mind, so please be careful.

The colorful artwork matched the jocularity of this book well, using pleasantly rounded edges throughout and giving the whole unit an almost fable-like feel. It perhaps may have been better to have made Ordinary Amos somewhat heavier at the beginning of the book, so his neglect could be seen in a drastic loss of weight rather than a long beard, which was actually a bit confusing, but overall the points made were quite clear and poignant. I enjoyed, for example, the fact that Amos’ person-bowl got more and more filthy as time went on, much like the murkiness of the water of a comparably filthy fishbowl.

©2016 E.T.

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