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Book Review: Fire Fish by Davy Liu

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On the cutting edge of Christian children’s literature, author/illustrator Davy Liu combines tales from the lives of animals present at major biblical events with sophisticated digital imagery. A veteran animator with Disney, George Lucas and Warner Bros. his experience shines through in illustrations that today’s media-savvy children will easily sympathise with.

Fire Fish is the story of three perch, Sarai, Sesom and RaaOn, unusual names that will make any reading parent’s tongue stumble. The perch children share their parents simple faith that the Finmaker made them steady swimmers. When the perch parents are taken up in a net, the three little fish turn to their faith in the Finmaker, learning to call upon Him in the wake of the distressing separation from their parents. Though the fish siblings encounter dangers and trials, they put their faith in the Finmaker, trusting in Him and His response to their calls to save them from situations beyond their control.

Woven throughout the story of these simple fish are veiled references to the biblical account of the events surrounding Moses’ birth and the exodus from Egypt. Some of these references are quite well hidden, creating some confusion when certain events are inserted into the story. It was only on my second time through that I understood why the mentions of “lovely food” in the morning were included.

The recommended age range for the series is 9 – 12 years of age, likely due to the subtlety with which the biblical inferences are inserted. Younger children will perceive this tale as a simple tale of a fish family's trust in their God and the rewards that faith brings. As my five year old said, “Mommy, are these fish Christian fish?” Younger readers will benefit from parental exposition as the book is read, pointing out the biblical events as the fish experience them in their own small world.

The underwater world that Sarai, Sesom and RaaOn inhabit is skillfully rendered in a wide variety of moods that match the story, from neutral greens to murky dark shades that transform into brilliant, sparkling blues. Highly stylistic design elements and presentation paired with artistic, flowing backgrounds and seascapes contrast sharply with the cartoonish, nearly comical visage of the main characters. It’s quite unusual to see a fish that could be straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon appear in the midst of such splendidly illustrated pages – but there they are.

Once the little fish reach the “Big Blue” or Red Sea as we know it, I was amazed at the diversity present amongst the sea life. Feeling some disbelief that such a variety of creatures live in the Red Sea I did some speedy internet research. My doubts were unfounded; the Red Sea is home to a vast array of swimming, floating and crawling inhabitants. Liu has done his research well, and certainly knows more about the local wildlife than do I.

While the little perch family and their new-found friends experience a happy ending, perceptive readers will close this book with a lingering sense of awe, and of remaining questions. What exactly are the mysterious fire fish, and where exactly is the Bright Beyond? Clever readers will be able to guess, but no firm answers are written into the story. Liu’s work clearly exhibits more layers than the average children’s picture book and will engage readers of all ages.

Liu established Kendu Films to publish nine books in the Invisible Tails series over 12 years; Fire Fish is the second, preceded by The Giant Leaf. Our family will be looking forward to future installments in the series.

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About Jennifer Bogart