Part touching tribute to friendship and part raising awareness of pollution in our oceans, Blob Fish follows the eponymous protagonist on his quest to find someone to share in his quirky sense of humour. The picture book opens, after a lovely playful hint of Blobfish through the use of endpapers, with a gull’s-eye view of a coastal town (Scottish flags in sand-castles and trains crossing impressive viaducts allude, perhaps, to the home of Falafel’s comedic success). Several humans are on the shorefront ‘splashing’, ‘walking’, ‘chasing’ and ‘whistling’ but, most importantly perhaps, a small group can be seen clearing up litter that has collected around the rockpools.
With the above-water landscape set, the narrative returns back to Blob Fish and his melancholic lifestyle (it’s difficult for a blobfish to look anything but melancholic). We find him leading an empty life upon an ocean floor devoid of any other life signs. Ascending, in the hope of finding company and someone to practise his jokes on, he passes aquatic lifeforms all paired up in friendship (based on species) – but there’s no one who looks like or wants to be with him. A well-planned weaving of both surface and underwater stories begins as Blob Fish swims across a double-page spread in a watery, rolling tunnel whilst vignettes of the people above continue with one particular human purposefully tossing a plastic bag over the side of the promenade.
In an ironic twist for the reader, the bag descends into the sea, the design on its cover, once upturned, mimicking that of a smiley face. When Blob Fish espies it on the other side of the spread, he instantly connects with it – falling for what appears to be a welcome grin. Another series of vignettes ensue as Blob Fish and the plastic bag dance through the sunlit sea, until disaster strikes and our protagonist finds himself trapped within the bag’s belly. Fortunately, a sharp-eyed beach-cleaning human spots the bag and claws it out leaving space for a curious little hermit crab (subtly introduced at the start) to come over and revive this blobby-nosed newcomer. A swift friendship is reached when both find that they have the same sense of humour.
Falafel’s illustrations are a treat, rich in colour and design and reminiscent of Scheffler’s work with those thick, dark lines that edge character and landscape. I particularly liked the pacing throughout and use of frames and although the friendship at the end felt a little rushed, the implicit ecocritical message is nicely done and opens doors for further discussion and, possibly, action. Comedic timing abounds.