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Papa's Mechanical Fish
     

Papa's Mechanical Fish

by Candace Fleming
 

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Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That's the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that's because he hasn't yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?"—and Papa

Overview

Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That's the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that's because he hasn't yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?"—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Pamela Paul
Fleming, the author of many acclaimed nonfiction books for young readers…and Kulikov, the dynamic illustrator of Max's Castle, are well matched for this particular eccentric.
Publishers Weekly
This quirky tale—based on actual, less whimsical events of the 19th century—profiles a would-be inventor and his indulgent family. Out fishing one day, daughter and narrator Virena happens to ask, “Papa... have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” “Uh-oh,” interjects Virena’s prescient baby sister, as their inspired father races for his workshop. To a refrain of “Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirrrr!” Papa sets to building a series of submarines, which he tests in Lake Michigan. Kulikov (Max’s Castle) pictures Papa’s wishful blueprints, optimistic dives, and soggy results; Fleming (Oh, No!) matches the outcomes to revealing remarks from the family, from Virena’s speculative, “Papa, how do fish stay dry?” to Mama’s, “I’m so glad I brought along this life preserver.” Gigantic orange fish and sturgeons observe and seem to aid in the experiments, and the family’s French bulldog glances at readers in comic disbelief. Fleming developed this tale from the real-life story of 1850s inventor Lodner Phillips and a submarine dubbed the Fool Killer; thanks to a bibliography, readers can research this oddball narrative alongside another daredevil history, Queen of the Falls. Ages 4–8. (June)
From the Publisher

“Fleming's telling is lively, humorous, and specific.” —The Horn Book

“A humorous tribute to the zany, determined and innovative side of invention.” —Kirkus Reviews

“There's a rich history of batty inventor/tinkerer dads in children's books, and the girl narrator's father in this book could hang with the best of them.” —Booklist

“*The exuberant and inquisitive tone of this book is sure to entertain curious children.” —School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our young narrator's amusing tale of her inventive father is loosely based on the life of Lodner Phillips, creator of one of the first modern submarines. When he is tired of thinking and tinkering, he takes the family fishing. This leads to provocative questions from daughter Virena and a series of inventions that almost work, but do not. After each trial, a question from Virena inspires a further refinement and another near miss. Readers can enjoy the family's reactions and the sound effects in the text as Papa keeps trying, until his final triumph. Kulikov's naturalistic inventive black line drawings and painted settings, complete with five children and a worried wife, are created with a tongue-in-cheek humor that overrides the real danger of his submarine experiments. Schools of realistic fish add to the attractions. The final cross-section of the seven-passenger sub complete with family and picnic basket is rich in detail for the happy ending, for now...Factual notes and bibliography are included. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—This picture book is a fictional account based on events in the life of eccentric inventor Lodner Phillips as told from the perspective of his daughter, Virena. Papa theorizes and tinkers but never succeeds. Finally, while the family is dropping lines from a pier into Lake Michigan, his daughter asks, "have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?" Immediately the man dashes back to his workshop and soon produces one of the world's earliest submarines, the Whitefish. Children will delight in the way Virena is the catalyst for her father's successive improvements to his primitive vessel as she continues to ask questions: about how fish move through water, stay dry, and know where they are going. Kulikov's luminous, playful, detailed illustrations on full-bleed spreads incorporate a variety of perspectives, including close-up views of fish and of Papa underwater and cutaway diagrams of his creations. An afterword is included. The exuberant and inquisitive tone of this book is sure to entertain curious children.—Anne Barreca, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Young Virena, one of four children, provides inspiration for her aspiring inventor papa's latest ambitious construction: a submarine. Fleming bases her tale on the true story of Civil War–era inventor Lodner Phillips, who tried his hand at submarine design on the shores of Lake Michigan. In Fleming's lively, enthusiastic account, Papa builds three increasingly large and more complicated underwater vehicles, each of which sinks, with Papa emerging cheerfully, if damply, ready for the next round. As Virena muses on the nature of marine life, providing Papa with ideas for improvements, the baby interjects disarmingly funny comments: "No pee pee!" chortles the baby when Virena asks how fish stay dry. The Whitefish IV has room for everyone, and Papa puts his entire family into the contraption--somehow the cheerful presentation keeps readers from worrying about the outcome. Kulikov's expansive, comical illustrations offer exaggerated perspectives from above and below the deep blue-green water, huge and beautiful fish just under the surface and a loving family for the determined inventor. Blueprints for each version of the mechanical fish are included--a neat glimpse into the invention process--while the peculiarly human expressions on the family bulldog remind readers that this is a fantasy. An author's note and an extensive list of adult resources give background information about the real Lodner Phillips. A humorous tribute to the zany, determined and innovative side of invention. (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466844513
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/04/2013
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
940,075
File size:
25 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Candace Fleming is the author of many picture and young adult books, including Boxes for Katje, Gator Gumbo, and The Great and Only Barnum, a finalist for theYALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. She lives in Mount Prospect, Illinois.

Boris Kulikov is the critically acclaimed illustrator of many children's books, including Max's Words by Kate Banks and, most recently, Barnum's Bones by Tracey Fern. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade, I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family’s trip to Paris, France.

I told such a good story that people always thought I was telling the truth. But I wasn’t. I didn’t have a three-legged cat or a ghost in my attic, and I’d certainly never been to Paris, France. I simply enjoyed telling a good story . . . and seeing my listener’s reaction.

Sure, some people might have said I was a seven-year-old fibber. But not my parents. Instead of calling my stories "fibs" they called them "imaginative." They encouraged me to put my stories down on paper. I did. And amazingly, once I began writing, I couldn’t stop. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, poems, plays. I still have many of those notebooks. They’re precious to me because they are a record of my writing life from elementary school on.

In second grade, I discovered a passion for language. I can still remember the day my teacher, Ms. Johnson, held up a horn-shaped basket filled with papier-mâché pumpkins and asked the class to repeat the word "cornucopia." I said it again and again. I tasted the word on my lips. I tested it on my ears. That afternoon, I skipped all the way home from school chanting "Cornucopia! Cornucopia!" From then on, I really began listening to words -- to the sounds they made, and the way they were used, and how they made me feel. I longed to put them together in ways that were beautiful and yet told a story.

As I grew, I continued to write stories. But I never really thought of becoming an author. Instead, I went to college, where I discovered yet another passion -- history. I didn’t realize it then, but studying history was really just an extension of my love of stories. After all, some of the best stories are true ones -- tales of heroism and villainy made more incredible by the fact they really happened.

After graduation, I got married and had children. I read to them a lot, and that’s when I discovered the joy and music of children’s books. I simply couldn’t get enough of them. With my two sons in tow, I made endless trips to the library. I read stacks of books. I found myself begging, "Just one more, pleeeease!" while my boys begged for lights-out and sleep. Then it struck me. Why not write children’s books? It seemed the perfect way to combine all the things I loved -- stories, musical language, history, and reading. I couldn’t wait to get started.

But writing children’s books is harder than it sounds. For three years, I wrote story after story. I sent them to publisher after publisher. And I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Still, I didn’t give up. I kept trying until finally one of my stories was pulled from the slush pile and turned into a book. My career as a children’s author had begun.

Candace Fleming lives in Oak Park, Illinois.


Boris Kulikov illustrated Morris the Artist by Lore Segal. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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