Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Only the Lonely: Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket

Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in a bowl on the dresser in the boy's room.

For quite some time he stared at the ceiling.

As is often the wont of his kind, this goldfish has gone belly up.

Even though the boy's room has its familiar charm, Goldfish Ghost begins to long for some company and finds himself, without lifting a fin, floating out the window and over the sunny scene of the little seaside town outside (not that he could see that much of it, since he was still upside down), and drifted toward the village haunted house.

Goldfish, pale as a ghost, goes unnoticed by the lively inhabitants below, fishing, boating, sunning, splashing in the shallows, and going about their daily lives. It is a jolly, cheerful scene, but Goldfish seems to have no part in it. He suddenly realizes that no one sees him and no one speaks to him.

Other colorless creatures also float by in the air but none of them seem aware that he is there.

And as the sun's shadows grow longer and deeper, Goldfish Ghost realizes that he is lonely.

Eventually it got late, so he decided to head back to the bowl.

Another goldfish was there, but she was not a ghost.

Mournfully, Goldfish Ghost floats away from his old home and and in the moonlight floats toward the haunted place.

"Everybody's looking for company," said a voice.

It was the ghost of the lighthouse keeper who had been watching him from the lantern room.

"Do you live here all alone?" Goldfish Ghost asked.

"Not any more," said the lighthouse keeper.

Lemony Snicket's Goldfish Ghost (Roaring Brook Press, 2017) takes a quietly gentle look at life after life, buoyed up by the charmingly child-friendly artwork of Lisa Brown, whose line drawings and sunny watercolor illustrations hint at the haven of happy hauntings that Goldfish Ghost finds at last.

Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) is the celebrated author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books, a sardonically dark but hilariously best-selling series which poke fun in mock Dickensian style at the trials of a family of clever and resilient orphans who make the best of a sequence of bad situations, and this new picture book shares the author's wry take on adversity. Goldfish Ghost will find itself in plenty of company on many a bookshelf, with a constellation of starred reviews to light the scene. "Brown’s subdued, moonlit landscapes resolve the story with moments of magic," puts in Publishers Weekly, and "... adults who come to snicker will leave unexpectedly moved," adds Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, while Horn Book's reviewer says, "... this one stands out for tenderness, originality, and subtlety."

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