Illustrator: Dave McKean
My rating: 4.5 of 5
One day, a boy gets a bright idea: his dad’s being boring just reading the paper and his best friend has these really cool goldfish in a bowl. So . . . why not trade? The friend’s goldfish for the boy’s dad. His sister warns him that it’s not a good idea–but seriously, who listens to their little sister? Then his mom comes home and confirms his sister’s warnings. Firmly. The boy is sent to return the goldfish and get his dad back, but of course it’s not that simple. See, his friend took hold of the idea of swapping and continued the trend. It might be a while before they even find his dad.
As you probably know, I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing. Reading The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was an interesting experience in that, while it was definitely written with Gaiman’s classic skill and fine touch, it was also a picture book. Definitely different from most of his works that I’ve read before in that regard. Still, the story was interesting–although I leave it to parents’ judgment whether they want to expose such ridiculous ideas to their kids. But if read in good fun and not at all seriously, the story is just that: fun. The wild goose chase the boy and his sister go on is kind of reminiscent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie in that one thing leads to the next leads to the next in a humorous sort of way. I do think this is better for a slightly older audience though–it’s still definitely a kids’ picture book, but maybe more like 5- to 6-year-old readers rather than 3- to 4-year-old readers, say. Of course, I probably say that mostly because of the art itself. McKean’s pictures are wonderful, whimsical, and infinitely creative, combining photographs and drawings in a wild collage. It works really well, but I do think it’s odd and hard for younger kids to understand at places. Regardless, I would definitely recommend The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish as a fun, funny, whimsical picture book.