Paul is a goldfish. He lives in a small bowl, and spends his time aimlessly swimming in circles. It’s not an exciting life. But then, one day, Bernadette joins him in his bowl. She has a relentlessly cheerful outlook on life, and teaches Paul to look outside the confines of their bowl. As they look at the things around them and speculate as to their use, a banana becomes a boat, a teapot an elephant. Bernadette changes the way Paul looks at the world.
The illustrations are gorgeous, and the book provides a great opportunity to invite kids to look at the world with new eyes. Some details seem more for the adults; when Bernadette points out a colorful pair of eyeglasses and speculates that it’s a lunetta butterfly, Paul thinks “How lovely she is.” If you look carefully, you’ll see that his eyes are on Bernadette.
This is a beautiful book, but also a sad one. While it ostensibly has a happy ending–if you continue on to the final page containing the publication information, you’ll see an illustration of Paul and Bernadette kissing–I found Paul’s boredom in captivity before Bernadette’s arrival hung heavy over the entire book. Bernadette gave him a new lease on life, but it is still a life in a tiny fishbowl.
Review by Kate Sweeney
Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb; Candlewick Press; c2013