cover image Dear Fish

Dear Fish

Chris Gall, . . Little, Brown, $16.99 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-316-05847-6

In this surreal romp, garnished with action verbs and visual jokes, Gall (America the Beautiful ) imagines what might happen if ocean creatures explored human neighborhoods. Unlike the frogs in David Wiesner's Tuesday —referenced in the bird's-eye view of a quaint church tower, among other images—the fish don't show up uninvited. They respond to a message in a bottle from Peter Alan, a boy who loves playing in tidal pools. "Dear Fish," he writes, "Where you live is pretty cool. You should come visit us someday." The next morning, he hears "a strange dripping and a flipping , a flopping and a gurgling ," and a huge emerald-green fish peeks out of his claw-foot bathtub. Gall's endpapers, which identify aquatic species, warn readers of "fish puns" galore; indeed, an airborne school of fish invades Peter Alan's math class, puffer fish (on balloon strings) and jellyfish (one holding a jar of peanut butter) hover in a birthday-girl's kitchen, and a sawfish and hammerhead disrupt the hero's father at his woodworking. Afterward, firefighters clean up the seaweed, while along a rocky beach, a note addressed "Dear Humans" flutters from a conch shell. Gall's precise, linocut-style images are hand-engraved on clay board and finished with digital color; his saturated palette of ochre, terracotta and aquamarine seems inspired by golden autumn sunsets in New England or northern California. Gall borrows from the bizarre visions of Wiesner and Chris van Allsburg, then adds his own quirky humor to this inviting escapade. Ages 3-6. (May)