February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Fish or Foil: What Came First? | Q & A with Marcus Pfister

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Marcus Pfister’s Rainbow Fish (NorthSouth Books), which, since its publication has sold millions of copies worldwide. In celebration of the anniversary, School Library Journal asked the author a few questions about his beloved creation.

What came first, the fish or the foil?

Absolutely, the fish. It was the story that called for the foil. To have the character share one of his colorful scales with another colorful fish wouldn’t have made sense. It needed something special.

How many prototypes did you go through before arriving at the iconic fish?

The problem was combining the metallic foil with the smooth technique of watercolor painting. To check the effect, I asked a friendly printer to do a test for me. With this test, I had to convince my publisher to print the whole book in this technique.

Could you have ever imagined how successful The Rainbow Fish would be?

We never, ever, could have imagined such a success. For a title originally written in German—it’s already a success to have it published in the United States. The millions of copies that have been sold during the last 25 years and for the book to be at the top of best seller lists still is a miracle.…

The original book has been translated into dozens of languages. When you meet with children from around the world what is they most often want to know about the creation of the book?

Mostly they want to know how an author comes up with the basic idea. In my workshops I try to show them the whole process and how they can learn to create their own ideas, characters, and stories.

What is it you hope children will learn from the “Rainbow Fish” titles?

Just to learn to get along with any other people during their daily lives, at home, at school, anywhere.
Our world becomes more and more complex every day, more and more completely different people from different countries and cultures live together. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.

To share related Rainbow Fish activities with your patrons, visit the Rainbow Fish anniversary page.

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