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Rainbow Fish Book Summary by Marcus Pfister Children’s Book Review

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“The Rainbow Fish” is a widely acclaimed children’s picture book, written and illustrated by Swiss author Marcus Pfister. First published in 1992, it was later translated into English by J. Alison James, so that young readers from different corners of the world could enjoy the story. Over the years, the book has been celebrated for its captivating illustrations and meaningful storyline, making it a beloved choice for parents, teachers, and children alike.

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Rainbow Fish Book Summary

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The story centers around a fish whose shimmering scales enchant all the underwater residents. Both visually stunning and thought-provoking, “The Rainbow Fish” aims to teach children important values like sharing, friendship, and humility. Pfister’s engaging narrative style, accompanied by his vibrant illustrations, contributed to the immense success of this book, which has captivated readers for decades.

From its initial publication in the early ’90s to the numerous reprints in 1999 and 2000, “The Rainbow Fish” has maintained its widespread appeal. The book’s increasing popularity has even led to additional sequels and adaptations. Not only does it entertain young readers, but it also provides a much-needed educational element about compassion and selflessness, leaving a lasting impression.

Plot Summary

Rainbow Fish is a children’s book about a fish with glittering scales that make him stand out from the other fish in the ocean. The story follows the Rainbow Fish as he learns the importance of sharing and making friends. At the heart of this simple story is a universal message about the value of generosity and kindness.

The Rainbow Fish is initially proud of his special scales, but he soon realizes that they make him different from the other fish and cause him to be lonely. A little blue fish encourages him to share his scales with the other fish, and the Rainbow Fish learns the joy of giving. In the end, the Rainbow Fish has made many new friends and is no longer lonely.

The book has instant child appeal due to its eye-catching foil and holographic foil, which make Rainbow Fish’s rainbow scales stand out. It is the first book in the Rainbow Fish series and has been a big breakthrough in the world of children’s literature. It has become a modern classic and has won countless international awards.

Rainbow Fish is a great book for young children, with a Lexile level suitable for older children as well. The story has a positive aspect, teaching children valuable lessons about friendship and sharing. The book has been translated into different languages and is popular with young adults as well.

The author, Marcus Pfister, is a graphic designer and artist who attended the Art School of Bern. He created the Rainbow Fish series in 1992, and it quickly became a favorite book among children. The story is a cautionary tale with an important lesson about the moral of the story, which is that giving and sharing can bring happiness and friendship that last a lifetime.

The production process of the book is impressive, with a piece of transparent film used to create the metallic scales of the Rainbow Fish. The book ends with the Rainbow Fish giving away his last special scale to a little boy, teaching readers the importance of being a good friend and giving to others.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfizer Book Cover
Rainbow Fish Book Cover

Rainbow Fish has stood the test of time and remains a popular book for elementary school children. It is the only way to teach young children valuable lessons about emotional learning and the importance of friendship. The story of the Rainbow Fish and his special traits has been reviewed honestly and positively by many readers, making it a favorite book for countless children.

In the story, Rainbow Fish learns that the rest of his life will be happier if he shares his special scales with others. He visits the octopus’s cave to seek advice and learns that the smallest.

Rainbow Fish’s Journey

The Rainbow Fish is a beautiful fish with shimmering scales in all the colors of the rainbow. Despite being the most admired fish in the ocean, Rainbow Fish is lonely and unhappy. He doesn’t have any friends because he is reluctant to share his prized scales with the other fish.

One day, a small blue fish asks Rainbow Fish for one of his scales. Rainbow Fish refuses and his decision causes the other fish to distance themselves even further, making him feel even more isolated.

Wise Octopus’s Advice

In an attempt to find happiness, Rainbow Fish seeks advice from a wise octopus. The octopus listens to Rainbow Fish’s problems and offers some wisdom. She advises Rainbow Fish that true happiness comes from being generous, kind, and sharing what he has with others. The octopus reinforces the importance of sharing by suggesting that Rainbow Fish gives away his beautiful, rainbow-colored scales to the other fish in the community.

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The Act of Sharing

Initially, Rainbow Fish hesitates, afraid of losing his beautiful scales. However, he realizes that he will never be happy if he continues to be selfish. Eventually, Rainbow Fish decides to follow the octopus’s advice and begins to share his scales with the other fish, one by one.

As he does this, he starts to feel true happiness for the first time in his life. As Rainbow Fish shares his scales, he finds joy in making others happy and creating friendships. Eventually, Rainbow Fish becomes a cherished member of the community, surrounded by friends who appreciate his selfless acts and generosity.

Through sharing, Rainbow Fish learns the value of community, friendship, and giving. By letting go of his precious possessions, he finally discovers true happiness and transforms from a lonely fish into a beloved friend.


The Rainbow Fish is the main character of the story. It stands out among other fish due to its shimmering silver and multi-colored scales that make it the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. Despite its fabulous appearance, the Rainbow Fish initially struggles with sharing and valuing friendships with others.

The other fish in the story are essential characters as they help to portray the Rainbow Fish’s journey towards understanding the importance of sharing and friendship. They admire the Rainbow Fish but feel rejected when it doesn’t share its scales with them. Gradually, as the Rainbow Fish learns to share, the other fish become its friends and accept it warmly.

The wise octopus serves as a significant figure in the story, providing guidance to the Rainbow Fish when it faces difficulties connecting with the other fish. The wise octopus’ advice helps the Rainbow Fish to see the value of sharing its scales and fostering friendships, ultimately leading to its personal growth and happiness.

The starfish is another character who plays a pivotal role in the story. The starfish directs the Rainbow Fish to seek the counsel of the wise octopus when it requires guidance. It acts as a messenger, connecting the Rainbow Fish with the wisdom of the octopus and helping it find its path to becoming a better friend and a more generous creature.

In summary, the characters, including the Rainbow Fish, the other fish, the wise octopus, and the starfish, all contribute to the overall message of the story, highlighting the importance of sharing and building friendships to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

Watch Rainbow Fish Read Aloud on YouTube

Watch as Storytime at Awnies House reads Rainbow Fish aloud to see if you would like to add this to your home library!

Themes and Motifs

Sharing is a central theme in The Rainbow Fish. The book portrays the importance of sharing and generosity through the protagonist’s journey. The Rainbow Fish, known for its shimmering beauty, initially refuses to share its scales with others. However, as it learns to share, it experiences happiness and acceptance.

Beauty also plays a significant role in the story. The Rainbow Fish’s striking appearance sparks admiration, but also isolation. This theme highlights the idea that beauty can be both a blessing and a curse, showing the value of inner qualities over physical appearance.

Community is another key aspect of The Rainbow Fish. The main character’s selfish attitude drives other fish away, creating a sense of loneliness. As the Rainbow Fish starts to share its scales, it becomes more connected to its community and gains friends.

In the story, Happiness is depicted as stemming from positive actions, like sharing and creating connections with others. Initially, the Rainbow Fish finds itself unhappy despite its beauty and admired possessions. Through the process of giving and sharing, the Rainbow Fish discovers the true source of happiness.

Lastly, Selfishness is the primary trait the Rainbow Fish must overcome in the story. It is a lesson in understanding that selfishness can lead to a sense of isolation and unhappiness. The protagonist’s transformation from a self-centered attitude to a caring and generous one enables it to find contentment and build stronger bonds with others.

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Artwork and Illustrations

The Rainbow Fish, a beloved children’s book, is known for its vibrant artwork, expertly crafted by the illustrator Marcus Pfister. The captivating visual elements in this book truly bring its story to life, with a unique blend of illustrations and special touches.

The distinctive blue color palette of the underwater world sets the stage for the story about the beautiful fish with multicolored, shiny foil scales. These shiny scales are not just an illustration, but a clever use of foil stamping that makes the book an interactive experience for young readers. The foil-stamped scales shimmer and reflect light with each page turn, engrossing children in the story and creating a sense of wonder.

While the shiny foil scales are a highlight of the artwork, other details in the illustrations contribute to the overall atmosphere and emotion of the story. Each character, from the main protagonist, the Rainbow Fish, to the other sea creatures like the wise octopus and the smaller fish, is rendered with precision and personality. The settings and backgrounds are thoughtfully composed to give a sense of space and movement, while also focusing on the interactions between the characters.

Neutral colors and simpler forms are used for the other fish in the story, enhancing the juxtaposition between them and the Rainbow Fish. This contrast helps to reinforce the theme of uniqueness and sharing, which is at the core of the story. It also makes the Rainbow Fish’s transformation throughout the story more noticeable and impactful.

In summary, the artwork and illustrations in The Rainbow Fish, featuring the talents of Marcus Pfister, are integral to the book’s success. The pretty yet meaningful illustrations, combined with innovative touches like foil stamping and a careful use of color, come together to create an engaging and immersive experience for readers.

Public Reaction and Acclaim

Awards and Recognitions

The Rainbow Fish has received numerous accolades for its engaging storytelling and beautiful illustrations. Some of its most notable honors include the Christopher Award winner, the prestigious Bologna Book Fair Critici in Erba Prizefor children’s literature, and the IRA-CBC Children’s Choice award. Additionally, the book experienced significant commercial success, making it onto the Publishers Weekly Bestseller and Wall Street Journal Bestseller lists.

Book Reviews and Commentary

Esteemed publications and professionals in the literary world have commented on The Rainbow Fish. Book reviewsgenerally praise the unique art style and engaging story featuring a cast of diverse and memorable characters.

One major theme explored in the narrative is the importance of sharing and the value of friendship, which has resonated with readers across all age groups. Interviews with the author reveal the intention to deliver a meaningful message that encourages empathy towards others.

In their commentaries, critics often note how The Rainbow Fish stands out from other children’s books within its genredue to its striking artwork and emphasis on moral lessons. Various quotes from the text are widely recognized and repeated, such as the memorable lines exchanged between Rainbow Fish and his ocean friends.

Overall, the public reaction to The Rainbow Fish has been overwhelmingly positive. News outlets, readers, and reviewers continue to appreciate the book’s timeless message and impactful storytelling—solidifying its status as a much-loved classic in children’s literature.

Adaptations and Translations

TV Adaptation

The Rainbow Fish book was adapted into an animated television series, produced by Decode Entertainment. The series aired on HBO Family in the United States and Teletoon in Canada. It featured the voice of Ernest Borgnine as the narrator, who brought life to the story with his confident and clear narration. The adaptation maintained a neutral and knowledgeable tone, appealing to audiences of all ages.

Translations and Global Reach

The popularity of The Rainbow Fish book has led to its translation into numerous languages, enhancing its global reach. This has allowed people from various parts of the world to enjoy the story and appreciate the important messages it conveys. In the United States, Canada, and other English-speaking countries, the book has become a beloved children’s classic.

As The Rainbow Fish continues to be distributed and shared around the world, its timeless lessons on friendship, sharing, and acceptance remain relevant and impactful for readers of all ages.

Additional Information

The Rainbow Fish is a children’s book written by Swiss author Marcus Pfister and published in 1992. It has since gained worldwide recognition and accolades, as well as being translated into over 50 languages. The story, featuring a beautiful fish who learns the value of sharing and friendship, is one for all ages to appreciate.

The protagonist, Rainbow Fish, is adorned with shimmering scales, setting him apart from the other fish in the sea. Rainbow Fish, proud of his beauty, becomes isolated and lonely as he refuses to share his scales with other fish in the community. A wise octopus advises him to give away his scales in exchange for friendship and happiness. Heeding this advice, Rainbow Fish starts sharing his scales, thereby forging new friendships and bringing harmony to the ocean.

Numerous editions of the book are available, including adaptations for early readers and a board book for younger children. As the book gained popularity, it inspired various educational resources, including lesson plans and activity sheets which can be found online.

The book’s success led to a children’s animated television series, which aired from 2000 to 2001, and a sequel book, Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale, also published in 1998. Additionally, the story has been adapted into popular stage productions and audiobook versions.

An engaging and visually appealing tale, The Rainbow Fish combines vibrant illustrations with a simple yet valuable message. Its timeless theme of sharing and the importance of empathy has made it a beloved story for decades. The book’s popularity extends beyond the pages, with its recognizable character and iconic story continuing to resonate with readers and viewers globally, proving that the lessons learned from Rainbow Fish remain relevant today.

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