Rainbow Fish

Zoe has the book Rainbow Fish, by Mark Pfister. It’s a very popular book. I think it came out when my brother was young because I remember him having it, although I have no memory of reading it to him, possibly because I was expected to read The Lorax full time. But Zoe loves fish (just like her namesake Grandma Sally (sniff)) so she sometimes asks that it be read to her. I have to say, I sort of hate it. It’s one of those Important Message books, which I don’t object to on principle, although they do tend to be less fun to read than books without Important Messages. But I’m not sure I like the Message. The book has Rainbow Fish, with very shiny, pretty scales, feeling superior to the other fish and unable to make friends. When another fish asks Rainbow Fish for one of his pretty, shiny scales, Rainbow Fish says no. So no one wants to be his friend. Then he goes to the magical octopus or whoever and the magical octopus tells him to share his scales and then he’ll have friends. So he gives all his scales away and then people want to be friends with him.

I understand, it’s bad to feel superior to other people, especially when your only claim to superiority is not really your fault (like your looks). And I understand it’s good to have friends, and it’s good to share. But I feel like the underlying messages here are also, “People will only want to be your friends if you give them stuff,” and, “In order to make friends, you have to give away what makes you unique.” I don’t really like either of those messages.
Maybe I’m nuts. This is a very popular book, and so far the only other person I know who doesn’t like it is Jason, who thinks it’s perfectly fine to feel superior to other people.

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