Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Arlene Sardine

Arlene Sardine

by Chris Raschka, Chris Raschka

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Widely acclaimed for his innovative books about jazz greats Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, author/illustrator Chris Raschka now pays tribute to an unsung heroine, a fish named Arlene, who has aspirations of becoming a part of a can of sardines.


Widely acclaimed for his innovative books about jazz greats Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, author/illustrator Chris Raschka now pays tribute to an unsung heroine, a fish named Arlene, who has aspirations of becoming a part of a can of sardines.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Raschka is at it again, setting picture-book precedent in this witty fjord-to-can account of how one little fish became a sardine. In addition to the deliciously eccentric subject matter, there's also an anomalous plot development: midway through the tale, the heroine expires. When readers first meet Arlene, she's a happy little fish with "about ten hundred thousand friends" who dreams of becoming a sardine. Then, rather abruptly, she's caught in a purse net and dumped on the deck of a fishing boat. Far from being a gloomy event, however, Raschka treats her demise matter-of-factly as just another step toward Arlene's ultimate goal. He then explains how Arlene becomes a sardine: she's sorted, salted, smoked and canned, covered in olive oil, hermetically sealed and finally cooked. Raschka's well-researched text is never ponderous; he opts instead for a playful, poetic approach ("Then she was smoked, delicately. She was delicately smoked. Delicately smoked was she"). The brushwork in his sea-colored watercolors is all swoops and swirls, with such piquant touches as a pink arrow pointing Arlene out in a crowd, and bright-eyed fish with eyes closed for the second half of the story. To top it off, Raschka has turned the cover art sideways and added labels such as "easy-open book" and "net wt. 12 oz." so that the book itself resembles a sardine can. Raschka delivers an uplifting message that death is a regenerative part of the life cycle. All ages.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Arlene is a little fish who dreams of becoming a sardine. Now that is a little unusual, since sardines are two-year-old brislings that are netted, killed, and processed into sardines. Strange as it may seem, this lesson on the preparation of sardines is quite informative and anthropomorphizing Arlene has not put off this sardine lover, although kids may not be quite so sanguine. The illustrations are appealing and the text in broad-brush script is splashed over the scenes. The jacket is designed to resemble a sardine can. It is an unusual book that may have difficulty finding its audience.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-"So you want to be a sardine" is the provocative opening line in this offbeat journey of a sardine from her birth in a fjord to her final resting place in a can. Arlene does typically aquatic things during her two-year life, dies on a fishing boat, and is then properly processed. Along the way, Raschka provides some new vocabulary ("1/4 dingley can," "brisling," etc.) and a clear and simple description of how a swimming, breathing creature becomes a toothsome treat. The writing style is direct and casually conversational but also whimsical, with dramatic pacing and poetic repetition. The text, in script, appears in irregularly shaped boxes or is artfully scattered over the page and the graphic design is masterful. The pastel palette is unusual and oddly appealing and the clever layout of each spread reinforces the action. Even the cover has been turned on end and is decorated to resemble a sardine can. While the matter-of-fact treatment of Arlene's death and continued interest in the processing of her lifeless body remove much of the potential pathos, the watercolor illustrations take these mundane events and imbue them with charm and humor, making Arlene a piscine personality whose fate may disturb listeners. Lacking the empowering message of The Blushful Hippopotamus (1996) and the color-as-music symbiosis of Mysterious Thelonious (1997, both Orchard), Arlene's saga, like sardines, is an acquired taste.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ
Margaret Moorman
. .. Raschka is the author and illustrator of many wonderful children's stories. . . .Unfortuantely, with Arlene Sardine he has missed his mark, whatever it may have been. --The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Raschka (Simple Gifts) has a way of continually reinventing the picture-book form; here, in his signature splashy watercolors and brash calligraphy, he tells the story of how Arlene, a little fish who wants to be a sardine, achieves her career goal. Along the way, readers learn how brislings are caught, killed, pickled, and canned; they also discover the different ways sardines are laid out in their containers. These facts are presented in an insouciant rhythm fully invested with Arlene's fishy personality: "A little fish/packed in oil,/in a can,/is a/sardine./Arlene/was a sardine./A sardine/is what Arlene/was." The book's jacket, not incidentally, is painted to look like, read as, and "open" like the tin lid of a sardine can; the entire book bristles with nonchalance, but makes its points with panache.

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.44(w) x 10.42(h) x 0.32(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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