The Tale Tellers: The Fantastic Fish Kids Book Review.

“A story about compassion from the Book of Jonah.”

“As told by Fiddler the Crusty Crab.”

“What if animals could tell us their tales?”

Written and Illustrated by T.F. Marsh.

 

If you ever wanted Disney to do Biblical tales, this kids book is for you. A version of Jonah and the whale which is, interesting.

Super simple version: God told Jonah to travel to Nineveh and warn the people they had 40 days to repent. Jonah refused, and left on a ship. The ship was almost destroyed in a storm until the crew tossed Jonah overboard. The sea quieted and Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Jonah pledges himself to God and the whale vomits him up on shore. Jonah convinces Nineveh to repent and is upset his people’s enemies have been spared. Jonah rests under a vine, which a worm then bites into and withers. Jonah’s upset now that he’s baking in the sun. God chastises Jonah for having more concern over a plant than over thousands of people and animals which are also God’s creations.

Current Biblical scholars view the story as a parable with no historic record. There is no fish nor whale that could swallow a human whole nor any that could keep one alive for three days. These same scholars also debate if this is a parody of a story mocking Jonah. The prophet who is never happy. He wants nothing to do with his mission and leaves. He nearly dies, is saved, and complains about who was saved. He finds a shady spot and complains when it goes away. God is looking around at cities, plants, animals, people, and thinking “dude does nothing I do make you happy? Fine! I’m going out. You’re on your own for dinner tonight!”

None of this is meant as sacrilegious on my part. I was raised Catholic and live my life according to a certain code. But there is definitely stories within the Bible meant to be fables and not fact. That takes nothing away from the message. Whether Jonah existed or not is not important. The story of an ungrateful person and lessons that can be taken from, that is the focus. We all know people who seem to wake up miserable and spread this misery to everyone they meet. Not in a way that is a cry for help. There are plenty who need help for their mental health. No, this is more a conscious decision to wake up and be miserable but lack the ambition to do anything to change it. I’ve been miserable, I’ve hated my life, I’ve felt alone, and I’ve wondered why no one wants to be with such a person. Sometimes its tough to see the forest when you’re surrounded by trees you planted and grew. Most of this was my own creation. No one wants to be around a miserable person, which makes that person more miserable. It takes a decision and effort to begin to correct that, but it can be done.

Instead of being miserable I’m not making millions of dollars, maybe be thankful for the hundreds or thousands. Even today during the pandemic there is a difference in thinking between focusing on the death and focusing on how many have recovered. Maybe I shouldn’t complain about the plant that sheltered me for a couple hours. Maybe I should be thankful for those hours of reprieve.

There’s a reason the stories have lasted for thousands of years. Whatever your religious beliefs, the crux of the stories remain relevant. Universal and timeless like most parables.

I do have issues with some art choices in this telling. “Fantastic Fish” actually features no fish. Crab, stork, frog, whale, worm. No fish. The old crap on the cover is a narrator appearing as bookends. He’s much younger and has brown hair, like most crabs, within the actual tale. The whale and worm are drawn near exact and my best guess is they are supposed to personify some heavenly power. God, angels, something. Why the frog looks like he’s about to tell me to watch the latest hit shows on the WB is a design choice I wouldn’t have gone with. Also, this page below really bothers me. The bag should be on Jonah’s other shoulder so the reader can see his face. The bag isn’t important. Jonah is.

The story of Jonah as a lesson makes a lot of sense. Be grateful. Be thankful. Count your blessings. Every life is worth saving, even ones you may not agree with. It’s this method of retelling it through not Disney and not Warner Bros. characters please don’t sue me that I have issues with. That is one disturbing looking whale and worm too. Ahab fought the great white whale, another parable, but there is no Biblical quote for the color of either animal. Gray would have worked well. Even a blue gray. There’s a frog who thinks he’s a sports announcer, so colors don’t have to be zoologically accurate.

If you made it this far, try to wake up tomorrow thinking of one positive thing. Say something nice to your partner or your kid. One positive thought or act to start the day. No, it wont make the world better. But it might help your own day not feel completely awful.

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