Author: Samad Behrangi
Illustrator: Farshid Mesghali
Key stage 2
The Little Black Fish is now available in paperback! Iran’s most famous picture book for children received a string of awards, including the Hans Christian Anderson Award, after it was first published in 1968. It’s been translated into dozens of languages, but in 2015, Tiny Owl were the first to publish the story in English complete with its original illustrations. It remains our bestselling title, and was shortlisted for the Marsh Award in 2016. David Almond describes it as ‘a book about freedom, confinement, human possibility … both simple and profound,’ while illustrator Jackie Morris calls it ‘a must for all schools’. Now approaching its 50th anniversary year, it continues to speak to children and change lives with its intrepid tale of bravery, exploration and daring to be different.
The Little Black Fish may be small, but he has big questions and the determination to find the answers. While his fellow fish refuse to deviate from their routine, he swims over the edge of their pool, into the stream and river, and beyond into the sea, meeting wonders and adventures, dangers and beauty along the way. And after his own tale ends, a little red fish hears it and starts dreaming of adventures of her own.
There are so many messages to take from this book. From the very beginning, the urge not to accept unquestioned norms is clear, but we quickly learn that this also feeds into open-mindedness, respect for the different, and help for the weak. Added to this are episodes of thrilling peril and adventure – and this is a story that isn’t afraid to explore the topic of death. But there are also moments of quiet introspection and beauty as the Fish ponders on all that he’s discovered, on how very large and wonderful the world is.
The stark block colours of Farshid Mesghali’s stunning printed illustrations highlight the brightness and boldness of the Little Black Fish’s adventures – and their danger too. And this unflinching handling of everything that subversion entails is what’s so powerful about The Little Black Fish. The fact that the consequences can be frightening, and even dangerous, isn’t just acknowledged – it’s central to the story.
But it acknowledges another consequence too: the fact of being part of a bigger story, which endures after the end of your own part in it. It’s present within the scope of the tale, all of which is narrated by a grandmother fish to twelve thousand listening grandchildren – and beyond it too, told and retold inside Iran and out. And this enduring power to enthrall and excite is the reason the story is still with us 50 years on.
- See a gallery by David Almond in the Guardian showcasing Iranian illustrators, including Farshid Mesghali, illustrator of The Little Black Fish
Limited edition signed prints
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