Emily Rand, Little Fish

Thames and Hudson, 2019, ISBN 978-0-500-65162-0

Little Fish is an intriguing and unusual pop-up book. It works as a conventional book, but in addition the covers can be pulled back and tied together to create a free-standing carousel of five different pop-up scenes. Each of the double page-spreads is a three-dimensional artwork representing aspects of ocean life.

The book tells the story of a little goby fish. At the start we see it playing in the waves with a companion. But then 'A giant shoal swims past the friends, and sweeps one fish away.' We turn the page and our fish is alone and lost. We are asked to look for a friendly turtle in the kelp. More frightening scenarios await. Overleaf is what looks like a cosy cave. If we look carefully though we see our little fish is eye to eye with a hungry, grumpy grouper. We turn again and our fish is now in 'the vast and empty ocean, where the water's deep and dark.' Things get scarier still. 'Some white and shiny teeth appear ... Quick, little fish! A SHARK!' All ends happily however. Our little fish makes it back home, and plays again with its friend in the coral reef.

The illustrations in Little Fish are neon-bright and striking and the paper engineering is extremely clever. Young children will be fascinated by the hide-and-seek element of the book. There are lots of intricate details to explore on every spread. The rhyming, rhythmical text, which swirls around as though it is wafting in the waves, complements the pictures well, and the story is one that will appeal. It is pleasing that the little fish is not given a gender. (In a worryingly high proportion of picture books with animal characters, virtually all are male.) Just one caveat: as with many pop-up books, this will need to be handled with care to avoid damage.