The Big Fish written and illustrated by Pamela Allen (Penguin/Viking) HB with slip cover RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780670078974
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
New Zealander Pamela Allen never seems to fail when it comes to producing an attractive and effective picture book for the younger reader. In this, her latest, she has a fisherman, his wife, two children and their dog setting off to a river to catch a fish. Dad casts off, but while singing a song about his wish to catch a fish, he suddenly finds something biting. It’s big, too. Almost falling in, he calls to his wife to help. Both almost fall in, and you’ve guessed it – one after another the two children try to help. However, the fish tugs them all in. Then they have to get out. Saved by the dog!
This is a circular story with musical language, much repetition, a happy ending, and a last page (and typical) Pamela Allen question for the young reader. It all seems so effortless, and makes for great reading and re-reading with the young reader perhaps joining in with the recurring song. Also appealing are Allen’s illustrations which use lots of pen and ink line work and bright colour and masses of white space. This gives the pages a clean and attractive look.
For more than thirty years, Allen’s picture books have enchanted generations of children around the world. They have garnered a glittering array of top awards and commendations in Australia, New Zealand and internationally. This book is no doubt going to be a classic, well-loved by children aged four and up all over the world.