NOTE: This is the premier edition of the KAR Review of Books.
If you are a parent who reads to your children, there's a good chance that at one time or another you have inflicted Marcus Pfister's The Rainbow Fish on the little buggers. I'll bet a good portion of you were as appalled as I was when I first read this Marxist propaganda to my innocent little girl. What on the surface appears to be a tale about sin, redemption, sharing and getting along with others, is really a sick and insidious socialistic screed.
As yet another illustration that there are no depths too low for KAR, I shall perform another blogospheric first (that I'm aware of), and fisk a children's story:
A long way out in the deep blue sea there lived a fish. Not just an ordinary fish, but the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. His scales were every shade of blue and green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them.
The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him "Rainbow Fish." Come on, Rainbow Fish," they would call. "Come and play with us!" But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent, letting his scales shimmer.
OK. So Rainbow Fish (hereafter called "RF") is a dick. That's fine if that were the only premise. But as we shall see, Marcus Pfister's world is a twisted one indeed.
One day, a little blue fish followed after him." Rainbow Fish," he called,"wait for me! Please give me one of your shiny scales. They are so wonderful, and you have so many."" You want me to give one of my special scales? Who do you think you are?" cried the Rainbow Fish." Get away from me!"
At first blush, RF handled Little Blue Fish's (LBF) request badly. If RF weren't such a dick, he might say something like, "I'm sorry old chap, but I am quite attached to my pretty scales. Perhaps I could interest you in something that's not attached to my body, like this nice kelp for instance."
But if you think about it, how would you react if someone with a bad complexion walked up to you and asked you to give him some of your skin? I'll bet you wouldn't be able to empty your can of pepper spray into his eyes fast enough.
Shocked, the little blue fish swam away. He was so upset, he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish. They turned away when he swam by.
Lesson here: it's OK to slander people behind their backs no matter how unreasonable your offense to that person's slight was. Classy move, that. "Wahh wahh! Rainbow Fish brushed me off because I asked for a piece of his skin. The jerk!"
And because of this - not because he was merely a dick - is RF ostracized by his peers. Perhaps in this happy little reef, everybody is expected to distribute his organs. Call me insensitive, but I don't think RF was totally out of line here. Certainly not enough to earn some Amish-style shunning.
To avoid copyright issues I'll summarize what comes next.
RF seeks advice and finally finds it in the form of a wise old octopus (the"Nanny State"). The Wise Oc tells RF to give one of his pretty scales to each of the other fish. Oc reassures RF that what he sacrifices in beauty will be made up for in happiness.
M-kay. If we were talking about candy or toys that's one thing. BUT TO MAKE FRIENDS BY GIVING AWAY PIECES OF YOUR FLESH IS JUST CREEPY!
And this book tries to pass that off as "wisdom".
Anyhoo, RF ponders Oc's advice for a while until...
Suddenly he felt the light touch of a fin. The little blue fish was back! "Rainbow Fish, please, don't be angry. I just want one little scale." The Rainbow Fish wavered. Only one very very small shimmery scale, he thought. Well, maybe I wouldn't miss just one.
Carefully the Rainbow Fish pulled out the smallest scale and gave it to the little fish.
It's only three cents on every $20 you spend. It won't hurt a bit. Until...
The little blue fish whizzed through the ocean with his scale flashing, so it didn't take long before the Rainbow Fish was surrounded by the other fish. Everyone wanted a glittering scale. The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became.
Yes yes! I am indeed happy to pay more for a better coral reef. Now I am loved! And I only had to bend over and take it up my - whatever the fish version of "ass" is.
When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.
Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left.
At least the story is honest.
His most prized possessions had been given away, yet he was very happy.
And thus we arrive at the moral of the story: Don't be a dick. But if you are a dick, it is easy to ingratiate yourself with your peers by buying them off with pieces of your flesh.
Godawful book. The Girl is scarred for life.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you would like to read your children a story about sharing, altruism and charity that finds it's source in generosity rather than compulsion or coercion, I highly recommend Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree.