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FISH TANK:  A Fable for Our Times - Scott Bischke Originally on my blog guiltless reading

A fable about coming together to solve a problem.

The book in one sentence: The inhabitants of the fish tank come together to solve the issue of depleting food supplies.

My two cents: Here's what I was expecting based on the synopsis, the author's note, and the slew of glowing testimonies at the beginning of the book:

1. In your face preaching about global warming. More advocacy than story.
2. A Finding Nemo copycat? Hmmm, let's see.
3. Academic cover! Errr ...
4. Overly lofty and unrealistic goals for the reader. Come on, climate change? And engaging people? Here's what the author says:

Fish Tank exists for a simple reason: to engage people—via a hopefully captivating story—in thinking about the critical issue of our times, climate change. My ultimate goal for the book is to help change society’s discussion from one of denial and “Who cares?” to one of understanding and “What can I do?” The success or failure of that goal, of course, rests with its readers. But for me, I am certain of one thing: I want to leave the next generation and generations to come the world they deserve, not one that has limitations put upon it by my generation’s sense of entitlement, lack of foresight, or, perhaps worse yet, complacency.

But ... I was interested. I don't consider myself an activist or an environmentalist but the message and its intent appealed to me. Plus I always give a book a chance. I was sort of expecting to dislike it but surprise, surprise, I can't say enough good things about it!


What I liked about it:

1. The story isn't that complicated, so even if you read this your young kids, they'll be able to follow along. In quick summary:

Dr. Brown studies sea animals. He has a fish tank with a variety of sea creatures. But he is going on a one year sabbatical and has been forced to leave it in the hands of caretaker Augustus. Lazy, uncaring and after a quick buck, Augustus replaces the feeder -- which needs to be refilled every week -- with a fifty gallon drum, not intending to return until just shortly before Dr. Brown's return. Will the fish food in the drum last for the entire year? Speculation and vested interests come to fore. What follows is a string of events where alliances are formed, actions are taken, and a cascade of events lead to a surprising and satisfying ending.

2. It's really very clever. If you liked Finding Nemo, with its winning combination of lovable characters and lovely storytelling, I am pretty sure you'll like this tale. The characters are fun but they are also very relatable. In this diverse array of creatures -- from the industrious shrimp, to the proud crabs, to the worried turtle, and the colorful fish -- there is bound to be one whose character, reaction or role would appeal to you. It also allows for some good discussions!

3. It delivers. I said in the beginning that the author's expectations for his readers seemed unrealistic. However, I personally feel it accomplishes the goal of getting people to start thinking about such an abstract issue as climate change in more realistic manner. It is an effective tool for teaching, and for starting discussions on a relevant message. Kudos to the author for being able to meld story and message in one fun package!

Uh-ohs:

1. The cover -- I wish they'd think about changing it. It is so dry and academic-looking that it doesn't reflect the whimsy or the young appeal of the contents.

2. Personally, those testimonies in the front turned me off. They range from educators, to students, to parents, to engineers and even someone on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Ok I get it, this book wants to reach out to a whole bunch of people. A page of select reviews is enough ... but 8 pages in fine print? Overkill. {I would put the whole bunch in the back and actually have a study/discussion guide right in the back instead of having to download it}.

Verdict:

A engaging, fun tale that will get us thinking about the consequences of our actions on our planet. Highly recommended for all ages. Highly recommended for teachers looking for an engaging way for their students to discuss climate change, resource distribution, and human nature.

First line: Professor Brown could hear Augustus banging around down below and wondered what he was doing.

Last line: In the next moment, the professor leaned out over the water [...]

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. [I saw this book on a Goodreads giveaway and put my name in the hat, so to speak. I didn't win but soon after received a message from the author asking if I was interested in a copy (with a miscut cover). ]
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I was holding judgement because it has such lofty expectations for its readers. Come on, climate change and a fish tank? But boy, did this one deliver!