A Fish Out of Water (Beginner Books)

by Helen Palmer

Hardcover, 1961



Call number




Random House Books for Young Readers (1961), 72 pages


A boy feeds his fish too much food, and it quickly grows to a monstrous size.

User reviews

LibraryThing member orthros
What would happen if you (naughtily) overfed your li'l ol' goldfish? Helen Palmer shows us, using P.D. Eastman's fantastic drawings. This was a favorite of mine as a child, and the moral lesson (obey adults!) is timeless and non-preachy. Great stuff.
LibraryThing member Charlee526
A little boy feeds his pet fish too much food and it grows so much that it has to be put in a pool! Fun little story! I really enjoyed it!
LibraryThing member shelf-employed
This book, written for every child who did not heed the warning, "When you feed a fish, never feed him a lot. So much and no more! Never more than a spot, or something may happen! You never know what," is a sentimental favorite of mine.
LibraryThing member benuathanasia
I love this story. I read it to my little sister (little, as in she's 23!) at our last sleep over.
LibraryThing member shazam79
this is longer than i usually read for storytime, but it captured the children's attention, and they loved it
LibraryThing member wickedshizuku
Over the years I have read this to my children on numerous occasions. They seem to enjoy it more the older they are getting. I remember the first few times I read it to them they had a very hard time concentrating because they were so young. That certainly isn't the case now. My son has very little
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trouble identifying any of the words now, and he is rather amused by this cute little tale of warning you to take care of your pets. Both of my children have benefited from reading this so many times.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
A Fish Out of Water is a beginner book written by Helen Palmer, based on a short story titled "Gustav, the Goldfish," written by Palmer's husband Dr. Seuss. In the book, a little boy (the unnamed narrator) buys a fish at the pet store and is instructed not to overfeed him. The boy comes home and
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tries to follow this advice but thinks his fish looks hungry still. After he pours a whole box of fish food into the bowl, Otto the fish begins to rapidly grow, quickly exceeding any container the boy moves him into next. As the situation threatens to get out of control, the boy calls in various reinforcements to help him with Otto.

This is a very fun story that moves quickly. I read it aloud when babysitting a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old, and both children were completely captivated by it, even the more rambunctious 6-year-old who did not sit put for any other story I read that evening. This isn't a book with a rhyming scheme or a whole lot of repetition, but it does have an easy cadence for reading aloud.

The words are by and large basic ones as the text is designed for emerging readers, but the overall story does not seem overly simplistic (i.e., an elementary school-age child would not think of it as "babyish"). Likewise, the illustrations by P.D. Eastman are fairly simple with a limited palette of oranges, greens, and grays. Yet they are lively and entertaining to look at while perfectly portraying the text with a few fun extras thrown in the details.

Even though the elements get rather fantastical, there's still enough truth at the core of this story that you could use as a cautionary tale for young children on proper care of their pets. But the silly elements also just make a fun story to share with the little ones who will be interested in hearing it or reading it on their own.

The only downside I can see to this book is that as a product of its time (and sadly, not a ton has changed in that respect), there are no female characters to be seen in its pages. A mother is mentioned in passing, but otherwise everyone is male - including the fish! There are also some less-than-PC words like "policeman" and "fireman" rather than "police officer" and "firefighter." If you're reading aloud, you could adjust the wording to fix this latter problem, but it's hard to get around the first one.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Oh now I remember this.  Yeah, it's pretty ridiculous.  But if it encourages young readers, that's a good thing.
LibraryThing member catherineparry
A cute anecdote about what may happen if you don't follow sage advice, this book is excellent for practicing prediction skills.
This book was written the year I was born and I probably read it for the first time 4-5 years later. It was a favorite of mine then and I have to admit 50 years on, it still made me smile. A
LibraryThing member aloiseau
My favorite book as a child stills holds up today. Fun to read and imagine how to handle such a dire situation created because one failed to listen to the adults.



Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

9.31 inches


0394800230 / 9780394800233



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