Sunday, October 10, 2010

He Wanted Wings Too

an illustration from Leo Lionni's Fish is Fish

As a wee little Nessa, I adored this book. I vividly remember tracing my fingers over the illustrations trying to feel the deceptively rich, chalky textures that were absent on the glossy pages. When I eventually saw the animated version of it, I would watch it over and over. Sitting far too close to the television set, the glow of the images painted my face in a rainbow color as I would watch, rewind, and repeat the ritual over and over.
The little animated tale stretched out a a book you could read in 2 minutes into a full 5 minutes. Delight.

Surprisingly, I remember loving the sadness I felt in the story. Basically, when a minnow and a tadpole grow up, their lives begin to separate and change... the tadpole turns into a frog and goes out into the world, leaving the minnow behind. The frog would come back and tell his good friend, the fish, all about the wonderful and beautiful things on land. Longing to live in his friends world, the fish jumps out onto land.

As a children's book, it naturally ends up happy and well. Still, I have always been really drawn to the way this story dealt with jealousy, longing, loneliness, desperation, and friendship. The animated version really draws these emotions out more than the book(which is very short). My mom gave me a copy of a bunch of Leo Lionni animations a couple of years ago, long after losing my good old VHS copy. Happy Happy.

A few weeks ago, my very pregnant and brilliant aunt asked that for bridal shower gifts, we each sent a copy of our favorite children's book. Loving the idea, I sent Fish is Fish. 

In a bout of hilarity, the only version I can find online is most definitely not in English.

When I try to think off of the top of my head, 15 books that left an impression on me, this is what I get. I am sure there are better ones, I don't even know if I would still like some of these anymore, but this is what comes to me first.

  • Fish is Fish - Leo Lionni
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'dell
  • A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
  • Stiff - Mary Roach
  • The Giver - Lois Lowry
  • Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky
  • The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  • Most things by David Sedaris
  • The Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King
  • Scary Stories - Alvin Schwartz
  • A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  • A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
  • Various writings by David Foster Wallace

I would be mighty curious to know some of your fav/most memorable books. Please do share.


  1. I never heard of that book before, but that's adorable. Now Ness, did wee-Ness read Shawskank Redemption, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest AND Dostoevsky? Cuz damn Ness...I knew you were smart, but damn!
    Ahhhhh..Scary Stories! Good choice. Good choice. But, how did it leave an impression?

  2. The idea of sending one of your favourite books from your very own childhood to another kid is so so... beautiful. When I looked up the author I found that he also wrote "Cedric The Mouse" which is one of my favourite childrens books. I can remember that I must have seen/read it once, but the face of the mouse and the story still stick in my head.
    About sad stories one can't get enough as a kid: I got a tape with various tracks recorded from the radio, which must have been assembled before I was born. There was one heartbreaking sond (a country song in German) that really grabbed me. I vividly remember listening to it over and over again and crying my heart out about the story. Words had a deeper meaning back then - something I am coming back now while using every free minute for reading.

    Thank you so very much for this posting. And yes - the colours. Thanks a lot.