cover image Tom's Fish

Tom's Fish

Nancy Coffelt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $13.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200587-0

Although this effort is more coherent than Coffelt's Goodnight, Sigmund and Dogs in Space , her striking illustrations and design once again outshine a flimsy story. When Tom receives a goldfish for his birthday, he's troubled because it insists on swimming upside down. Tom's friends and family suggest that the fish, which Tom has named Jesse, might be bored, hungry or lonely, so Tom serenades Jesse with his ukulele and does ``his super-duper jump dance.'' Then he gives Jesse ``fish chips, and even fancy fish fries,'' and buys a fish friend named Flo. Eventually, Tom decides that whenever he wants to see Jesse right-side-up, he'll stand on his head. There's only one problem: when Tom and his dog and cat stand on their heads, Flo looks upside-down. Coffelt's unique oil pastels on black paper resemble schoolroom scratchboard or chalk drawings. Frenetic colored borders framing each drawing complement the sometimes abstract compositions that, while intriguing in their design, may confuse the youngest readers. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)