cover image One Small Fish

One Small Fish

Joanne Ryder. Morrow Junior Books, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07059-5

On a slow Friday afternoon in science class, a girl gazes into the fish tank, ``where lacy fish / circle mossy towers / and brown snails hug / the glassy walls.'' Her concentration cedes to dreams ``of waves, / of water swirling / higher and higher / until our room / is sunken / like a ship / in a shining sea.'' While the other students study unawares, she entertains a host of sea creatures: ``pale octopi / skitter from the pages / to the smooth dark floor''; eels slither down the desk rows; dolphins fly among hanging coats; and one small yellow fish befriends her. Ryder tantalizingly meshes the two worlds of the girl's intense imagination and of the ordinary classroom activity. Schwartz's gouache and air brush illustrations catch the playfulness and match the precision of Ryder's poetry. When ``the cold sharp bell / breaks Friday's spell,'' the girl leaves the sea, but the mood of her daydream lingers in the gentle, unexpected ending. Capturing the interplay of imagination and invention, this eloquent tale accurately and creatively replicates the wonder inspired by the best science education. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)