Rummanah Aasi
 Real life isn't a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he's going through? Is there a way to tell them he's gay?

Review: The Magic Fish is an exquisite example of how storytelling, art, and language come beautifully together. There are three distinct story lines running through this graphic novel and each are told in different color palettes. The present is depicted in a red palette in which Tiến and his mother learn to communicate through fairy tales when they are not able to have difficult conversations since Tiến does not speak fluent Vietnamese and his mother is not fluent in English. The brown palette is the older past in which Tiến's mother reflects on her own journey from leaving war-torn Vietnam and becoming a U.S. citizen. The blue palette are the fairy tale stories that we tell to help make sense of our situation and express our own desires. For Tiến it is to urgently share his secret of his sexual identity to his mother, but his mother is suddenly called to Vietnam to say farewell to her dying mother. 
   As a daughter of immigrant parents who is not fluent in her parents' native tongue, I really responded to the concept of this graphic novel. I did not find the different plot lines hard to follow and I loved how the fairy tales mirrored the obstacles and joys that take place in Tiến's and his mother's lives. Some of the fairy tales may seem familiar such as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, but there is a Vietnamese twist to them. I also thought the approach to using fairy tales to tell an immigrant story of identity and culture to be refreshing. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang
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