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Review: Tropical Terry by Jarvis

Tropical Terry
By Jarvis

Candlewick Press

ISBN: 9781536205466
Grades PreK-1
Out May 14, 2019

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Books with fish on the cover make me wince (save for one notable exception). I’ve just been spurned too many times. I don’t know, there’s something about a colorful underwater setting that screams “This is going to be some didactic crap!” Or is that just me? See? My aversion runs deep. Because of this, there would have been no way in hell I’d give Tropical Terry the time of day. It features a fish protagonist in a colorful underwater setting, after all. But then I spotted the name on the cover: Jarvis. This is the person who made Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, a recent read aloud favorite of mine. So I decided to fight through my near-phobia and give it a chance. What do you know – it completely won me over. Clever, funny, surprising, with delightful illustrations to boot, Tropical Terry is ready to be your next storytime selection. You won’t regret it.

Terry lives in Coral Reef City, a place that is bursting with colorful, elaborate, attention-grabbing tropical fish. Terry is none of those things, and therefore not excluded from the group. He hangs with his friends Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail, but dreams of joining the “dashing, flashing crew” of tropical fish. So Terry gathers up all the knick knacks he can scrounge and makes himself tropical. But when a hungry eel arrives in Coral Reef city, Terry’s newfound fanciness causes problems. To escape, Terry must forget about fancy.

The plot and pacing are as sturdy as they come. Jarvis uses repetition to his advantage, as the story calls back to earlier events to move the plot forward. While themes of acceptance and self determination run throughout, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, employing humor and a clever twist or two to bring a feeling of freshness.

The vibrant illustrations were created with pencil, chalk and paint and colored digitally. Jarvis has created a visual wonderland, using layers, color, and texture to add endless visual interest.

An excellent read aloud and a wonderful pick for those looking for a Rainbow Fish alternative. I encourage you to give it a try.

Review copy from the publisher.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.