In the children’s book, Bluefish’s Secret Wish by Ranya Rafiq Malouf, Sara is a young fish who, although happy to play with her friends under the sea, harbors a secret wish to fly with the birds. Because of her kind nature, a fisherman/wizard grants her wish by giving her a pair of wings, but it is only with hard work and perseverance that Sara can soar up high in the clouds like she dreams.
This is a sweet and earnest story that demonstrates that a combination of good fortune and individual effort is necessary for success. Malouf named the title character after her young cousin who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two, being inspired by the young girl’s positive outlook despite her illness. Committed to using this story as a way to raise awareness and benefit those in need, Malouf is donating 5% of her annual royalties from its sale for the entire time that it is in print and she is engaging in a series of fundraising events centered around Bluefish.
While a noble tale, there are several little tweaks that could have made this book better, many of them issues that could have been solved in the illustrations. From the beginning, it’s hard to relate to Sara as an individual character. She is introduced to us in a richly colored, but somewhat monochromatic, undersea view that contains many blue fish. There is nothing about any of them that sets them apart as the character that we will be following. This creates a disconnect between the reader and the story that is hard to shake as the book progresses. Two other moments in the story would have benefited by the “show don’t tell” mantra.
The first is Sara’s capture by the fisherman/wizard. The words tell us that this is a magical moment, but we see no magic taking place. The fisherman is just a fisherman and Sara’s wings seemingly come from nowhere. The second is the fisherman/wizard’s justification for granting Sara’s wish. He tells us that it is because she is deserving due to her kind and helpful nature, but we don’t see this anywhere else in the story. A simple exchange earlier in which we are able to see Sara’s goodness in action would have set us up to hope for good things for her. As it is, Bluefish left me hopeful about what was in store for her future, but disappointed with her transformation.