Marcus Pfister was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1960. His great breakthrough as a picture book author came in 1992, when The Rainbow Fish took the bestseller list by storm. To date more than thirty million copies of the different volumes and editions have appeared all over the world in about fifty languages. In his studio, which has a fine view over Switzerland's capital city, Marcus Pfister continues to create more and more new characters and stories.
Despite some jazzy special effects achieved with shimmery holographs, this cautionary tale about selfishness and vanity has trouble staying afloat. Rainbow Fish, ``the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean,'' refuses to share his prized iridescent scales--which, indeed, flash and sparkle like prisms as each page is turned. When his greed leaves him without friends or admirers, the lonely fish seeks advice from the wise octopus, who counsels him to give away his beauty and ``discover how to be happy.'' The translation from the original German text doesn't enhance the story's predictable plot, and lapses into somewhat vague descriptions: after sharing a single scale, ``a rather peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish.'' Deep purples, blues and greens bleed together in Pfister's liquid watercolors; unfortunately, the watery effect is abruptly interrupted by a few stark white, text-only pages. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
PreS-Gr 1-- Children will be immediately drawn to this book that features an iridescent, metallic-looking main character whose ``scales were every shade of blue and green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them.'' Adult suspicions of the gimmick overwhelming the story quickly fade as the plot unfolds: none of the other fish will have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish, who always swims by superciliously and refuses to give away any of his special garb. He is lonely and without admirers until a wise female octopus advises him to give away his scales. Rainbow Fish then discovers that sharing brings happiness and acceptance. The delicate watercolors of underwater scenes are a perfect foil to the glittering scales that eventually form a part of each fish's exterior. This is certainly a story written to convey a message, but in its simplicity, it recalls the best of Lionni. Besides, what three-year-old doesn't need reinforcement about sharing? --Ellen Fader, Westport Public Library, CT