Does the ghost of a goldfish over an empty bowl require explanation? Maybe. Maybe not. You might not need to explain the fact that the ghost is there because a goldfish has died, although you don’t see the body or anything. Anyone who’s lost a fish and had the funeral in the garden — covering the goldfish grave with shells gathered on a beach – will understand what has happened. And by the time the new fish appears several pages in, it’s clear what has happened.
But is it sad? Not especially. Goldfish Ghost is about friendships found, not lost. The ocean fish ghosts might not be the right place for a goldfish ghost, but the right place and person/ghost will appear, right? This struck me as kind of a weird book for children initially. (Weird? From Lemony Snicker/Daniel Handler? What a surprise!) It’s not a warm and fuzzy book about losing your goldfish and dealing with grief, but it IS, somewhat strangely, a book about it being ok that goldfish–and by extension, people – die. Also, there are some wonderful visual references to other children’s books about fish. That’s cool, too.
South, on the other hand, is about friendships lost. Sometimes the person, or bird, you befriend cannot overwinter where you are. They could stay with you, but it just wouldn’t be right to hold them back from what they’re meant to do and the home they’re meant to find. Can you be happy at the new life they will lead? You can. Can you find joy in your own? Of course. And there’s more wonderful detail here to find – a picture of a squid, a cactus, a Polaroid camera, whales, expressive mustaches…
Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown
South by Daniel Duncan