Undoubtedly this is one of the very best non-fiction picture books I’ve seen this year; it’s based on Catherine Rayner’s own goldfish, Richard; the very same name the young narrator chooses for the gift received herein.
Little by little, through careful observation of this very first pet, the child learns a lot about goldfish, sharing these observations with readers. In addition in a smaller font, throughout the book we read fascinating facts about goldfish: they have good memories perhaps remembering things for as much as five months; they lack eyelids and breathe by means of gills; they use their very good eyesight and sense of smell to locate food; with their acute vision they can detect more colours than humans; the collective name for them is a ‘troubling’.
Richard’s owner has an older friend, Sandy who is a fish expert. He has a backyard pond full of assorted goldfish which he shows to the narrator, offering said pond as a home for Richard should he ever grow too large for his home aquarium. Richard grows and grows and when he turns 4½ years old, Sandy’s offer is accepted and Richard’s new home is perfect for the friends to continue their regular meetings.
The delicate mixed-media illustrations are absolutely stunning: each one is a place to pause and delight in the gorgeous fish in their watery, often bubble filled environment wherein the aquatic plants drift gently to and fro.
There’s a final author’s note that includes a few tips for fish care, and an index. An absolute delight.