Friday, July 13, 2012

Fish Tank: A Fable for Our Times, by Scott Bischke

FISH TANK:  A Fable for Our Times

The sea creatures in Professor Brown’s aquarium have a problem. The professor has gone on sabbatical for a year and left the care of their tank to someone who does not have much interest in the job. The hapless assistant attaches a fifty gallon drum of food to the tank and leaves, presumably never to return. Will the fish (and crabs, shrimp, seahorses, etc.) have enough food to last the whole year? Some of them say no, while others argue that there is nothing to worry about.

Fish Tank is a parable. It can be used to draw parallels to human concerns (such as climate change, which is the author’s intent) and human behaviour. It’s meant to appeal to all ages and has a reading guide for teachers available from the author.

I expected Fish Tank to be sanctimonious and tedious, too focused on the “message” to be a good story. But it’s a fantastic story! The real genius of the book is that, though the parallels are easy to draw, the author keeps the story really about the aquarium. (It’s like the scene in Finding Nemo when all the sea creatures are in the dentist’s office,
trying to figure out how to survive the perils of tank life.)

There are a lot of reviews already available for this book, most of which praise the author for his strong environmental message, but not nearly enough that focus on the great story telling of Fish Tank. It’s enjoyable, funny and really is appropriate for adults and children alike.

Plus, the behavior of the sea creatures in the aquarium is not just a parallel to human reactions to climate change. A parallel can be made to all sorts of situations in which people know they must change or else but look for every rationalization they can think of to avoid that change. “I don’t need to worry about my diet even though I’ve got Type 2 diabetes. After all, you need to treat yourself.” “I don’t really need to quit smoking. Sure it’s bad for me, but I enjoy it, so what’s the harm?” And the way some of the sea creatures begin “praying” for the help of the absent Professor Brown is a clever comment on the way religions often externalize blame in favour of “letting go and letting God.”

Honestly I can’t say enough about this book. It’s a quick read but one you’ll want to tell people about, not just because it’s got a “message” but because the story is so clever and well told. And I think I’ll ask the author if I can see that reading guide for classrooms too!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favourable) review. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

You may also like:

Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen

DK Eyewitness Books: Fish

DK Eyewitness Books: Fish, by Steve Parker

An Inconvenient Truth

Finding Nemo (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

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