Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review : Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths

My first guest post appeared on Saffron Tree.

Title : Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths (Abby and Tess Pet-Sitters)
Author: Trina Wiebe

Illustrator: Meredith Johnson
Ages : 4-8
Publisher : Lobster Press

To start with, I would love to narrate one interesting anecdote from my childhood. I remember when we were very small, my sister and I used to love eating the meat of the melon seeds. It was a big effort to get those seeds cleaned first, to remove the pulp in which they are encased. Mostly we used to clean the seeds using a couple of vessels and a sieve. But one day we had a brilliant idea - we thought we should use the rough floor of our verandah for spreading the seeds on, it was easier this way as we could just squeeze the seeds and set them free from their pulp. It worked really fine and we were happy that we could accomplish the task sooner than previous times. When we brought the bowl of all clean shining seeds inside to enjoy them, our elder sister pointed out that the place where we kept the seeds on the floor is not a clean one and we walk on that floor all the time, we should not eat these seeds. That made us a little uncomfortable (as we were about to put the seeds in our mouths to pop them open) but we didn't want to lose our seeds, so we decided to wash the same seeds with "Surf" (detergent powder for washing clothes) and then have them. It seemed like the most intelligent idea we had at that time.

Not quite similar but somehow after almost 25 years I was reminded of this incident when I was reading - "Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths" , to my children. Innocent minds just know very simple ways to clean things up or bring some change.

In this book, the unaware Tess decides to give the goldfish a bubble bath by putting Dish Detergent in their tank, to make the goldfish feel better. This book is the first one of the series of - Abby and Tess Pet-Sitters. Two sisters Abby (elder one) and the younger one - Tess are desperate to have a pet of their own, but cannot do so because of the building rules - No pets allowed.

Abby wants to be a Veterinarian when she grows up and loves reading books on different animals. Fortunately she gets a chance to fish-sit Mrs. Wilson's two goldfish, when Mrs. Wilson went out of town for a week. She tries to get as much information on goldfish as possible by reading various books from the library on goldfish. As this is the first "pet-sitting" project that came Abby's way, she wants to prove to her parents that she is responsible enough to take care of the goldfish in the best possible manner. She wants to do it perfectly so that she can request her parents for the permission to start a pet-sitting business of her own.

The whole new experience starts and that is when while accompanying Abby to Mrs. Wilson's apartment to check on the goldfish, Tess does her bit too and it is interesting how Abby rescues the goldfish who seemingly do not like the soapy water. That is when all the information that Abby had gathered from the books comes handy. Obviously very angry at Tess's philanthropic act of making goldfish feel happier, Abby decides to take care of the goldfish all by herself. But later when just two days are left of this job, something terrible happens which can completely ruin all the impression that she wants to build to earn future pet-sitting projects. It is very natural that in the most miserable conditions, we tend to feel bad for what we do wrong, similarly, Abby now feels bad for Tess and talks to her and apologizes to her for her indifference towards her. Then two of them together try to save the situation. Initially Abby thinks of hiding it from her parents but then realizes that taking responsibility means owning the mistakes too and surprisingly for her, her parents understand that everyone makes mistakes and making mistakes is so human. They still decide to give her a chance to pet-sit in future too. The same night Abby gets busy in preparations for her exciting pet-sitting job with Tess as her reliable assistant.

We read this book over a few days, one chapter everyday, keeping the curiosity of kids high. Everyday they used to wait for the designated reading hour. A wonderful way to introduce children to the habitats, eating habits and other characteristic features of different animals along with some messages - working together is always better than working alone, owning the mistakes instead of hiding them. Getting such messages from different sources and in different situations always help in making the values firmer in their impressionable minds.

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