My Pet Goldfish by Catherine Rayner

My Pet Goldfish by Catherine Rayner. Candlewick, 2021. 9781536215205

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  If you’ve been waiting for the perfect book for goldfish lovers to jazz up your pet section, this is it. It is a story, about a little girl who gets a fish (which she names Richard – the perfect name), but it also walks potential owners through everything they need to know to keep their pets healthy and happy. Large font advances the plot while asides in smaller type give us fun facts: these orange beauties have good eyesight, number over 200 different varieties, and can live for up to 40 years! The girl’s friend Sandy turns out to have a wealth of helpful information and an outdoor pond filled with huge goldfish, which is where Richard eventually ends up living out his years. There are so many romanticized and involved stories about dogs and cats as pets, but not everyone has the funds or room for one of these high-needs mammals. Here’s a pet book that makes owning something much more attainable seem like it could also fill the animal-shaped hole in many young hearts. Back matter includes a short index, a list of needed supplies, tips on care, and a note from Rayner about her own goldfish. The very cute (unnamed) protagonist has light-colored skin and an unruly mop of multi-colored ringlets; her older friend Sandy also looks White.

The artwork really makes this simple story into something worth lingering over. Mixed media (featuring watercolor in a starring role) renders Richard and his fishy friends in brilliant color and suggests their fluid movements. The visual interactions between the little girl and the tiny (but eventually big) fish are so adorable and full of personality that it made me want to run out and get a fish right away. So much less work than a Labrador! Goldfish owners will recognize a lot of their own pets’ behaviors from the illustrations and those considering adding one to their homes will get a good preview of what to expect.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children age 3-8 who’d like a new piscine family member. As they’re a common sight in schools and libraries, this would be a great read aloud for storytimes or at the beginning of the school year to introduce the classroom pet. Kids who enjoyed Truman (2019) by Jean Reidy may also be drawn to this story about a non-furry friend with modest care requirements.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? I think I might put it with pet books in the 600s, so that those anticipating a purchase could find it easily, but it could also go in picture books.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 11, 2022

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