The Magic Fish

Trung Le Nguyen. Random House Graphic, $23.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-9848-5159-8
Tiến Phong, 12, who “speak[s] mostly English,” and his mother, Hiến, a refugee who “speak[s] mostly Vietnamese,” have long read fairy tales together to bolster Hiến’s English. Tiến cherishes this bonding activity, as his mother works long hours as a seamstress. Despite her busy schedule, though, she dreams of taking her son to her hometown in Vietnam to meet her mother. Meanwhile, Tiến struggles to discuss his sexuality with his parents (“The librarian and I couldn’t find the word for it in Vietnamese”) and navigate his feelings for male best friend Julian, even with the encouragement of best friend Claire. Alternating between Tiến and Hiến, the narrative intertwines Western and Vietnamese fairy tales, including “Tấm Cám”—“our ‘Cinderella’ ”—and a nuanced retooling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Detailed illustrations rendered in split complementary colors cleverly distinguish each story line. Nguyen’s poignant debut captures the perspectives of, and essence of the bond between, a parent and child, proving that language—and love—can transcend words. Back matter includes author’s notes that delve into personal inspiration, the interplay between immigration stories and fairy tales, and contextualize the illustrations. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. Agent: Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 10/15/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-593-12529-8
Library Binding - 256 pages - 978-1-9848-5160-4
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