“Once there was a fish and his name was Tiddler.
He wasn’t much to look at with his plain grey scales.
But Tiddler was a fish with a big imagination.
He blew small bubbles but he told tall tales.”
These delightful lines are the opening to Tiddler, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (of Gruffalo fame). Tiddler is the aquatic equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. He is always late for school and concocts more elaborate excuses with each passing day. His classmates don’t believe him (“”It’s only a story,” said Rabbitfish and Redfin, “Just a silly story,” said Dragonfish and Dab”) except for Little Johnny Dory, who repeats Tiddler’s tall tales to his Granny. However, one day, whilst dreaming up his ‘tallest story yet’ Tiddler is accidentally caught in a fisherman’s net. Although they throw him back to sea, he is far away from home. But then he hears a story he recognises…
Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are at their best in this book, as the underwater theme allows him to pack lots of detail into every scene and the colours are vibrant and exciting. (There is even a cheeky cameo from a Gruffalofish!) The rhymes are clever and the repeated sections work well for young readers to anticipate lines (“Tiddler? Tiddler? Tiddler’s LATE!”) which makes for enjoyable, interactive reading.
If you are reading this out loud, try adopting different voices for the different fish, particularly in the final section where Tiddler traces his stories back to their source. With older children you could even discuss what voices you might expect from a lobster, an eel, a whale and a shrimp! With younger ones, take advantage of the detailed pictures and expand their vocabulary playing ‘find the octopus/jellyfish’ or count the starfish and eels.
A great book with lots of potential for enjoyment.