Coral Reef City is full of bright, beautiful tropical fish with swishy tails and swooshy fins. Surrounded by all this colour and splendour is Terry. Small and plain, he is a little fish who lives with his best friends, Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail. Together, they have great fun playing, but Terry is hurt by the way he is treated by the tropical fish and longs to be one of them.
With a little help from his friends, Terry creates a colourful costume and makes it into the cool crowd. But is being a tropical fish really as good as it seems?
This is a story of friendship, self-esteem and valuing those things which make you different. The allure of friends with the 'right' clothes, the 'right' look, who are part of the 'right' crowd is something many children (and adults!) struggle with and this beautiful story very clearly shows the folly of this way of thinking. Terry has two lovely friends and he is very talented at playing 'Hide-a-Fish', but he can't see the value of these things, focusing instead on the visual attraction of the tropical gang, even though these fish are unkind to him. The story offers a wonderful way into much needed discussions about self worth and being an individual, making it great to share with children of all ages.
There are also discussions which could be had around Terry's treatment of his faithful friends when he becomes part of the dazzling shoal of tropical fish. He was 'far too busy flaunting and posing to play with Cilla and Steve.' The story lends itself to role play and/ or writing in role, exploring the feelings of the different characters at this point (and others in the story), developing empathy and consideration.
On a sciencey note, children learning about the oceans, living things or evolution and adaptation could investigate why some fish are so 'showy' and others so plain and easily camouflaged.
The illustrations are a complete joy! Vibrant blues make a wonderfully watery backdrop to Terry's antics and each spread is full of little details and touches of humour. Children could have great fun creating their own Terrys- with and without fabulous tropical tail- perhaps resulting in mobiles where the tails could be displayed in all their glory! They could create underwater scenes using various papers and materials to cut out some creatures and plants whilst drawing/ painting others. They could also play with watercolour methods, using salt on wet paint etc to create backgrounds. There are so many possibilities!
Lovely story, fabulous illustrations! Perfect for sharing with a class or at home.
Tropical Terry Jarvis
Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406376425
You can read a review of 'Mrs Mole, I'm Home' here.