Character Assassination Carousel: Today’s Special – Filleted Rainbow Fish

Every parent has “that book”. A delightful, well loved, often well awarded piece of literature that makes you want to claw your eyes out with your pre-schooler’s cafeteria issued spork. We internally cringe and convulse at every bedtime reading, unable to resist the freshly pajamafied chorus of, “Please read us our favorite book!”, so, we read on praying for temporary blindness or our neighbor’s feral cat to strike. Yes, we all have our cringe worthy stories, but, none of us are clever enough to take that hatred to the next level. None of us, that is, except Ninja Mom. With her black belt in snark and dreaminess, she has created a safe space for children’s literature “roasting”. Enter her Character Assassination Carousel. I (with inflated paper anxiety sack) follow in a long line of impressive authors that brought sharp witted mayhem to Story Land. Most recently, the fabulous Middletini gave us even more reason to delight in our hatred of Ruby and her latchkey kid brother Max and now, it’s my turn! If you enjoy this post (no pressure, but, seriously, please love it.), all of Madame Ninja’s guest Character Assassination posts are available for your viewing pleasure here:


I have had my hand permanently raised, ticket in hand, waiting for permission to ride. I am ready, my pretty pony is foaming at the mouth and this carousel is rocking steady. This week, I’m out for blood. The seas will run red with chum. Grab your snack, Goldfish or anything cheese dust based, and join me as I roast, on a spit, with some garlic butter and fresh squeezed lemon, Marcus Pfister’s, The Rainbow Fish.

The Rainbow Fish was a gift from a family member who will, undoubtedly, never speak to us again. A sweet, little story about a lovely fish that overcomes vanity and selfishness and learns that sharing and friendship are life’s most treasured and important gifts. That’s what the (lying) book jacket and (erroneous) reviewers and their (happy pill induced) words TELL us, but, let’s examine this more closely, shall we (adjusts wire rimmed librarian glasses, lights bubble pipe and tightens velour robe tie)? There is only one way to fillet this fish and that is through psychoanalysis. I’ll bring the psycho. You judge the analysis.

A long way out in the deep blue sea there lived a fish. Not just an ordinary fish, but the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. His scales were every shade of blue and green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them. The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish. “Come on, Rainbow Fish,” they would call. “Come and play with us!” But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent, letting his scales shimmer.
So far, so good, right? WRONG. We are introduced to the Rainbow Fish as a desirable playmate only because of his beauty. In fact, no one even bothers to learn his name. What’s that fish’s name? Oh, I don’t know…who cares. Let’s just call him Rainbow Fish. He’s silent and we’re led to believe that’s bad. Is it? Can you blame him? Who wouldn’t want to play with a group of people who only want your company because you’re beautiful and, who haven’t even bothered to learn your name? You sound like a total snob, whatever your name is. I like this right off the bat because it encourages our children to try to make friends with only the prettiest or sparkliest kids on the playground. Definitely try to track down the kids with the shiniest clothes, but, never ask them any personal questions in order to get to know them better. Stick with, “Hey You! Yeah, YOU, Glitterpants! You seem really fancy. Let’s play.”
One day, a little blue fish followed after him. “Rainbow Fish,” he called, “wait for me! Please give me one of you shiny scales. They are so wonderful, and you have so many.” “You want me to give you one of special scales? Who do you think you are?” cried the Rainbow Fish. “Get away from me!” Shocked, the little blue fish swam away. He was so upset; he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish. They turned away when he swam by.
Frankly, this sounds like a mugging. I find it interesting that the little blue fish is upset. If someone came up to me and asked for my pants, I’d tell them to get lost too. Bully Blue then goes back to tell all of his juvenile delinquent friends that The Rainbow Fish didn’t go for being held up in broad daylight. So, they stop calling the Rainbow Fish by the wrong name and leave him alone. Great, right? Wrong again.
Now he was the loneliest fish in the entire ocean. One day he poured out his troubles to the starfish. “I really am beautiful. Why doesn’t anybody like me?” “I can’t answer that for you,” said the starfish. “But if you go beyond the coral reef to a deep cave you will find the wise octopus. Maybe she can help you.” The Rainbow Fish found the cave. It was very dark inside and he couldn’t see anything. Then suddenly two eyes caught him in their glare and the octopus emerged from the darkness. “I have been waiting for you,” said the octopus with a deep voice. “The waves have told me your story. This is my advice. Give a glittering scale to each of the other fish. You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy.”
As the victim of a near swim-by descaling, Rainbow Fish now has post traumatic stress disorder and is finding ways to blame himself for everyone’s criminal treatment of him. Ok, I can admit by this paragraph, he DOES sound a bit vain. I weigh his vanity over the behavior of his would be sea-muggers and determine he may be an anti-hero, but, I’m still rooting for him over everyone else. He seeks the counsel of a random starfish and then an “expert”; someone who admits to talking to waves. Clearly, we can not trust the poor Rainbow Fish’s judgment at this point. He is so lonely and eager to please that he will listen to anyone in his attempt to appease the huddled masses, even crazy ol’ Mr. Octopus who refuses to come out of his dark cave – Mr. Talks to Waves with a side of Agoraphobia. Yeah, this guy is legit. Since the octopus is OBVIOUSLY not crazy, I’m sure his advice to give away everything that makes you unique and special will prove to work out swimmingly.
The “Doctor” is (permanently) In(side).
“I can’t…” the Rainbow Fish started to say, but the octopus had already disappeared into a dark cloud of ink. Give away my scales? My beautiful shining scales? Never. How could I ever be happy without them? Suddenly he felt the light touch of a fin. The little blue fish was back! “Rainbow Fish, please, don’t be angry. I just want one little scale.” The Rainbow Fish wavered. Only one very very small shimmery scale, he thought. Well maybe I wouldn’t miss just one.
A-HA! It was a set-up! OH, the little, blue fish just HAPPENS to be there right outside the cave of the “renowned sea therapist”. Oh really, that is just so convenient (world’s largest eyeroll)! Oh, and the little thief is back to ask for “just one little scale”. And, what’s this? The ploy seems to be working? The Rainbow Fish (name still not determined) is giving in. This is it – the gateway scale!
Carefully the Rainbow Fish pulled out the smallest scale and gave it to the little fish. “Thank you! Thank you very much!” The little blue fish bubbled playfully, as he tucked the shiny scale in among his blue ones. A rather peculiar feeling came over the Rainbow Fish. For a long time he watched the little blue fish swim back and forth with his new scale glittering in the water. The little blue fish whizzed through the ocean with his scale flashing, so it didn’t take long before the Rainbow Fish was surrounded by the other fish. Everyone wanted a glittering scale. The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.
I think the peculiar feeling that must have come over Rainbow Fish was pain since he was ripping out his own scales to make everyone else happy. I think this is called martyrdom, but, sure…let’s play along and call it sharing. And, of course, does the little blue fish stick around to play with Rainbow Fish after he gets the scale? No, he just swims around, showing off his new stolen bobble so that everyone takes notice that Rainbow Brite has cracked and, is finally giving away scales. Sure enough, poor Rainbow Fish is soon completely surrounded by scale thirsty blow(hard)fish who want a piece of the shiny action. Let’s take a moment and acknowledge this fabulous child rearing lesson – If you are different, special or unique in ANY way, especially if it’s a trait that others admire, you should focus on the people who are jealous of your unique qualities and do whatever is in your power to give away all of your uniqueness until you are just like everyone else. That way, EVERYONE can be happy. Everyone, except you. Don’t worry, there’s a pill for that. 
Just your average group thievery!

Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left. His most prized possessions had been given away, yet he was very happy. “Come on Rainbow Fish,” they called. “Come and play with us!” “Here I come,” said the Rainbow Fish and happy as a splash, he swam off to join his friends.

Now that the Rainbow Fish had finally given in to their inappropriate demands, he had “friends”. The End

Now, wasn’t that delightful? Sweet dreams, Muffins!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your ride. Exit to the right and be sure to check back in with The Character Assassination Carousel next time when the always funny Angela of Tall Curly Biscuit climbs aboard.


  1. I love this! I never saw it in this light. Mind you, it’s not a staple at our house. I’ve read it a few times, but clearly it required repeat readings to see the sinister nature of this book. And that little blue fish? What a leech!

    Way to fillet! And thanks for palying along. :

  2. Excellent job! What I never understood was how Rainbow Fish could swim around with only one scale left – hadn’t he pretty much turned himself into a fish stick at that point? Wouldn’t that be like us taking a jog without any skin? Because, *gross*.

  3. I never like that either. It really ticked me off! Thanks for articulating it so clearly! Mwah!

  4. I hate this book for ALL of those exact reasons! it’s demented.

  5. LOL! Nicely done.
    Previously this was NOT one of my children’s books that bothered me, but I cannot argue with one single, shiny point in your astute analysis.
    Now when do you take on “Love You Forever” and the disturbing, stunted behavior of the mother?

  6. I remember this book–I must have read it to my grandchildren! I felt the same way about it. This whole Character Assassination Carousel concept is hilarious–including yours!!

  7. Poor little descaled fishie! I’d assume there’s probably blood in the water from pulling out all those scales, and it’s only a matter of time before a shark turns up. Do you think his new friends with their new scales will help him? We all know the answer – Rainbow is now a sad crunchy fish nugget. I’m seeing a martyr theme in a lot of these books, actually. Maybe the idea was to model giving, nurturing behavior so that kids won’t feel so entitled? It seems more like a cautionary tale, if you ask me.

  8. I’m all for teaching the lesson of sharing, generosity and giving of yourself, but I do feel like that particular story does focus more on the “you can be popular if you give people your stuff” idea. I mean really, were those other fish needy? Was there magical powers in the pretty scales or were they just vain too? The hubs and I frequently rip apart kids shows and books. Great post!

  9. This had me laughing! No, this wasn’t a book that we read when mine was small – but I can remember reading some of those books and thinking WTH?

  10. Very well done! We’ve read this one a few times, but I actually didn’t too much about it. You are so right on! Those fish are a bunch of a-holes. I am glad I am human, since humans never act like that ever.

    Great job- love it!

  11. Yes, I believe we should encourage our kids to only be friends w/ sparkly people.

  12. LMAO…so, we should go around giving away our scales, or, in my case, stuff people would want like my super sweet new ponytail holders that don’t snag, in order to make friends? So messed up.

  13. I’m also a little disturbed by how large all these fish’s lips are.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I’ve had that book sitting in my classroom for years but have never read it aloud to them. THANK GOD. That is incredibly creepy. Kinda the same message as Grease–oh, you have values and morals? How quaint. But no one will be your friend unless you pretend to be someone you’re not, put out and dress like a slut. Nice.


  15. THANK YOU for skewering this horrible book! Self-mutilation is the way to make friends…”I really am beautiful. Why doesn’t anybody like me?”…eeeush! I hadn’t noticed that the other fish don’t even bother finding out Rainbow Fish’s name. Good grief.

    Here are 3 good children’s books, just for contrast!

  16. “You seem really fancy. Let’s play.” That’s how my husband asked me out for the first time.

  17. You are genius. I’ve never read this book. Hmm, now I feel so happy to have missed it.
    God, I love you!!!

  18. We read this ONCE. The kid thought it was lame & I was horrified by the message. No more fish for us!

  19. That’s really gross. I’ve always avoided that book because it always seemed too long. What a messed up story, though! Sheesh.

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