The Magic Fish

Random/Graphic. Oct. 2020. 256p. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9780593125298; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781984851598.
Gr 7 Up–Le Nguyen folds five stories into his narrative. There’s Tien, a young teen who’s trying to figure out how to tell his parents he’s gay while nursing a crush on one of his best friends. Meanwhile, his mother, Helen, struggles to help a sick parent back in Vietnam. Then there are three gorgeous fairy-tale adaptations from around the world, which Tien and his mother like to read together to learn English. The language gap between the two makes Tien wonder how his parents will react if he comes out, but their love for one another resonates throughout the story. Tien’s best friends, Claire and Julian, are also an important support system for him. Though there are moments of stress and doubt, everything comes together, all wrapped up in Le Nguyen’s sumptuous illustrations and intricate linework. The couture dresses worn by the characters in the fairy tales contrast with Helen’s job as a seamstress and the patchwork coat she makes for Tien. Questions of happy endings and sacrifice—the bread and butter of fairy tales—are explored deftly. Notes from the author provide details on his own experience as the child of immigrants who spoke a hybrid language at home. He also includes in-depth information on the fashion and art, which will appeal to close readers of comics.
VERDICT A lovely and original take on fairy tales, identity, and culture.

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