Elizabeth is bored with her guppy and wishes for a more exciting fish. We know from fairy tales you should be careful what you wish for. You might get your wish in excess as Elizabeth does. Piranhas, flounders, moray eels, clown triggerfish, squid, halibut, skate and then a baby beluga whale pour relentlessly out of the taps in her house. Not since the child to monster transformation in Not Now Bernard have we had such unresponsive parents faced by such dramatic consequences. Anderson’s illustrations are detailed and exciting, some ranging over double spreads while others are vignettes. So we have a huge picture of the plumbing system showing the fish swimming along inside the pipes and smaller pictures – in one case showing Elizabeth’s father in irritating concentration on a jigsaw instead of answering Elizabeth’s question: why do flounders have both eyes on the same side? Delicate washes create a surreal watery world, contrasting with the sudden bursts of colour as a fish springs up from its tank or Elizabeth herself is foregrounded in her bright blue jumper, her face showing an almost religious resignation as a baby whale begins to burst through the ceiling.
We have all the different kinds of print – bold, spidery and sometimes travelling across or round the page – that modern picture books use for different effects. The dialogue between Elizabeth and her parents is wonderful: ‘I think we should get out of the way’ says Elizabeth as something huge and grey comes whooshing down.
So we have here excess, irony and boundary breaking features which make considerable demands on the reader and which make this an exhilarating if rather disturbing read for older primary children as well as younger ones.