Fred Blunt’s Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale is a bit of an anomaly in the 2015 world of children’s picture books: Not only is it incredibly long and involved, text-wise, but it is flat-out, no holds barred bizarre.
The story of two rival pirates (the titular Captain Falsebeard and his nemesis, Admiral Swinetoes) battling over a treasure, the whole thing has the feel of a top flight improv show, or like Blunt wrote it using a 20-sided die to determine what would happen next. In the course of their battle, the pirates resort to –amongst other things– cross-dressing and bird poop to best each other. “Madcap” is a word that comes to mind… Had Benny Hill partaken in children’s literature might he have created something like A Very Fishy Tale?
Blunt does not hold back on the narrative. It’s not unusual to find a kids book nowadays that doesn’t push much past eight or ten words per page, but Falsebeard is epic, balancing action in multiple locations simultaneously, and Blunt handles it with incredible aplomb. The story, characters and presentation (the text is delivered in various ways, like speech bubbles, exclamations in the illustration and standard floating text) are all incredibly engaging and fun. My five year old was rapt while I read it to her; she asked questions, made comments and had me go back and re-read things over and over again. Aside from a wonderful story and fantastic illustrations, Captain Falsebeard gives you more bang for your buck than any other book on the shelf.
Blunt’s illustrative style is unmistakably influenced by the work of Quentin Blake, who drew the pictures for Roald Dahl’s book, and this lose, hand-drawn aesthetic is perfect for the subject matter. He fills the pages with details and site gags, and packs his book with whimsy without ever downshifting to cutesy. In its own way, it’s gorgeous; it’s certainly impressive.
Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale is The Three Stooges for the picture book set; it’s strange, very funny and not quite like anything else you’ll find on the market.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale in return for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.