About the Holiday
Today’s holiday is pretty straightforward as was instituted to remind those who keep aquariums to give them a good, thorough cleaning at least once a year. A clean tank is a healthy tank for your fish and aquarium plants. If you don’t have an aquarium but love their beauty and calming influence, today can be a spark to learn more about responsible aquarium ownership and maybe even head out to your local pet store for a tank or a bowl.
By Lena Podesta
Seeing a new pair of eyes looking in on him, Gil does what any well-mannered goldfish would do: gives the onlooker a tour of his home. He shows off the plant he fits neatly within. Next to the plant is his castle, and under his castle are his pebbles. “I clean them every day,” he explains. “All 138 of them. All by myself.” The viewer may notice that Gil looks a little less enthusiastic than he did just the page before. He quickly comes to the end of his tour with a “BONK!” into the glass. He sums up his house as “small, round, cramped [and] TOO CROWDED!”
Gil – as any reader can see from the next page – is a go-getter, and having climbed out of his bowl, he’s going to get a new “house that is not too crowded.” He’s well equipped for the search with his suitcase, his shoes, and his injured nose covered with a band aid. First, Gil strolls up to Bird’s nest. He finds it roomy – plenty big enough for him and the three eggs already there. One by one, though, the eggs hatch and the nest is filled with song all day long. Gil considers this house “TOO LOUD!”
Next, Gil comes upon a quiet high rise. It’s got three stories. It’s fuzzy. Cat lives there. Gil thinks maybe Cat’s house is too quiet… and “TOO DANGEROUS!” Soon, Gil runs into Turtle, who’s house seems just…. But, wait! Turtle has an urgent question for Gil. “‘Hey, aren’t you a fish?'” he inquires. Gil answers in the affirmative, but doesn’t see what that’s got to do with anything. Until… Turtle gives him the bad news. Then, with a “GAG,” a “GASP!,” and a “GLUB” Gil flops to the ground.
Turtle calls for help and a little girl comes running. She scoops him up and runs toward home, where Gil’s bowl awaits. With a splash, Gil revives. He swims around his same old cramped house… but what’s this? Turtle is coming to stay! Now Gil is excited to show off his – I mean their – plant, castle, pebbles… perfect home.
Witty, quirky, and completely charming, Lena Podesta introduces kids to a small-scale hero that will steal their hearts. Podesta’s short, snappy dialogue imbues Gil with an endearing personality that makes his impossible journey outside the bowl completely plausible until Turtle breaks the spell in a moment of hilarious horror that kids are going to want to relive again and again. Gil’s rescue offers pitch-perfect satisfaction as readers are treated to a two-page spread Gil’s b inside the little girl’s house and the juxtaposition of Bird’s nest, Cat’s climber, and Turtle’s garden. As Gil is restored to his house, Podesta ingeniously adds more layers to her story with a small illustration of Turtle watching at the window and an invigorating change of pronoun from “my” to “our.” Suddenly, this tale of a rebellious goldfish is transformed into a story of friendship and the contentment that sharing brings.
With a whole lot of humor and a tiny fin full of pathos to make the laughs all the sweeter, Podesta has created an intrepid cutie who’s unabashedly self-assured as he steps out into the world, his tail fins stuffed into sturdy shoes. She depicts Gil’s delayed “last gasp” with slapstick precision and captures the little girl’s mad dash back inside with perfectly cupped hands and steely resolve. Kids will also enjoy following the fate of the souvenirs Gil collects along the way. The playful antics of Gil and Turtle together in the bowl are a sweet ending to this unique story.
Too Crowded would make a splash with any child and is highly recommended for summer reading and for all home, school, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728222387
To learn more about Lena Podesta, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Clean Your Aquarium Day Activity
Fish Bowl Coloring Pages
Here’s one fish bowl to fill with your favorite fish – real or imaginary – and one to color!
Fish Bowl with Fish | Fish Bowl to Fill
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Picture Book Review