Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Special Fish for Jonah

There are so many picture books about Jonah and the big fish, I almost groan when I see a new one published. However, Andy McGuire's A Special Fish for Jonah deserves all the attention it can get. Not only does this title offer the highest quality writing and illustration, but instead of retelling the famous Bible story, the author uses it to highlight a biblical truth quite different from the one usually associated with Jonah.

McGuire begins by summarizing - in a short paragraph - the story of Jonah, but then he asks: "How did God pick the special fish [to swallow Jonah]? Maybe, just maybe, He asked an angelfish to look into it." Then, the magic begins.

God gives an angelfish the special job of finding just the right fish to swallow the phrophet Jonah. The angelfish looks everywhere, posts a help wanted ad on the mast of a sunken ship, and conducts may interviews. She knows she can't choose just any fish. Some are obviously too small, others too skinny. Some are too scary-looking, others are too hungry. (McGuire pictures a shark here, carrying a fork and knife while wearing a bib that says "I [heart] people." Later, the shark shows up wearing a dolphin mask. "Nice try, but I don't think so" the text reads.)

Just when the angelfish is about to give up, she bumps into a most unusual fish, called Specialfish by his mother because he's "so big and a little weird." When the angelfish asks why he's weird, Specialfish suddenly swallows an anchor that's sinking into the sea. "I'll swallow anything," Specialfish says. "I've swallowed furniture and tools and toys and treasure chests and small boats. If it falls into the water, I'll swallow it."

"The angelfish smiled. 'Have I got a job for you!'"

Specialfish hovers around Jonah's boat, waiting to swallow him, while the other fish cheer him on. Specialfish does his job beautifully, but is soon complaining of a tummy ache. The angelfish says, "Perfect!"

After Specialfish spats Jonah up onto the beach, he asks:
"'So what will the man do now?'...The angelfish shrugged her fins. 'Who knows? Maybe God has special plans for people too.'"
The last two page spread of the book pictures every fish shown in the book, this time labeling them: Red Devil Anglerfish, Hammerhead Shark, Pinecone Fish, and so on.

What I Like: Everything! I hope Andy McGuire continues to write Christian picture books, because he's got the knack! The illustrations are realistic, beautiful, and often humorous, and the text is strongly written, clear without being preachy, and fun. My 4 year old adores this story and is enjoying learning the names of all the different kinds of fish, too.

What I Dislike: Not a thing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: 4 - 8.

Publishing Info: Harvest House, 2009; ISBN: 978-0736925617; hardback, $15.99

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Special Info: Read our reviews of other books by Andy McGuire.

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