cover image Papa’s Mechanical Fish

Papa’s Mechanical Fish

Candace Fleming, illus. by Boris Kulikov. FSG/Ferguson, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-39908-5

This quirky tale—based on actual, less whimsical events of the 19th century—profiles a would-be inventor and his indulgent family. Out fishing one day, daughter and narrator Virena happens to ask, “Papa... have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” “Uh-oh,” interjects Virena’s prescient baby sister, as their inspired father races for his workshop. To a refrain of “Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirrrr!” Papa sets to building a series of submarines, which he tests in Lake Michigan. Kulikov (Max’s Castle) pictures Papa’s wishful blueprints, optimistic dives, and soggy results; Fleming (Oh, No!) matches the outcomes to revealing remarks from the family, from Virena’s speculative, “Papa, how do fish stay dry?” to Mama’s, “I’m so glad I brought along this life preserver.” Gigantic orange fish and sturgeons observe and seem to aid in the experiments, and the family’s French bulldog glances at readers in comic disbelief. Fleming developed this tale from the real-life story of 1850s inventor Lodner Phillips and a submarine dubbed the Fool Killer; thanks to a bibliography, readers can research this oddball narrative alongside another daredevil history, Queen of the Falls. Ages 4–8. (June)