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Papa's Mechanical Fish

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  858 ratings  ·  155 reviews
Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr!  That's the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that's because he hasn't yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?"—and Papa is off to his worksho ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  858 ratings  ·  155 reviews

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Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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Papa's Mechanical Fish is a fiction story about a family man who's obsessed with inventing things. Many times his ideas evolve from his children.

After a day of fishing with the family on Lake Michigan, he decides to make a submarine. Follow along in the story to see his journey of creating a mechanical fish for the whole family.

This story is fiction, but is based on the true story of Lodner Phillips and his construction o
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Virena's father is a passionate inventor. One day, he decides to take his family fishing and along the way, is struck by the brilliant idea to find out what it's like to be a fish. He builds a rudimentary submarine and, with each failure, improves it based on Virena's thoughtful questions. He finally designs a 'fish' that holds the entire family and they enjoy an afternoon under the water. The book ends with Virena asking her father if he's "ever wondered what it's like to be a bird?"

Virena's father is an inventor, and for some reason, he becomes obsessed with the idea of a vessel that can move underwater just like a fish. After several failed attempts and revised plans, he succeeds, and the whole family gets to enjoy his invention. Not only do I love the idea that the story is based on Lodner Phillips, a real life inventor whose family ventured into Lake Michigan in his invention, but I loved the language used to describe the man at work ["Clink! clankety-bang! Thump-whirrr ...more
Amanda Coppedge
What an excellent picture book for older readers. This would be great shared one on one with a child as young as kindergarten, or read to a group of 1st-2nd graders. It would also make an excellent gift for a child with a lot of imagination, a budding inventor, or a child who loved to take apart things to see how they worked. If I read this book as a child it would inspire me to keep a notebook full of invention ideas, creating detailed sketches like the one in this book.
Edward Sullivan
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Kulikov's illustrations are a great complement to this fanciful story about eccentric inventor Lodner Phillips. ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books, 2017
My child now wants to build a submarine.

So that's good.
Nene Riley
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Categories/Genres: Picture Book/Historical Fiction

Estimate of Age Level of Interest: Grades K-3

Estimate of Reading Level: 2.5, Lexile 480

Brief Description:

Papa tries again and again to make a submersible boat. Each time the family goes down with him to the lake to test it, and each time it doesn’t work. The narrator, one of his children, keeps coming up with new ideas to help launch the Whitefish. “Papa, I wonder what it’s like to be a fish?” and “Papa, how do fish move through the water?” and
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be remembered for something you invented? Candace Fleming's most recent book is a fictional account based on true events of eccentric inventor Lodner Phillips' life as told from the perspective of his daughter, Virena. She witnesses her father first theorizing, then tinkering, and eventually finalizing various projects after being inspired by the way fish navigate in their natural environment. Fleming explores the concept of perspective as it relat ...more
Alison Rankn
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an interesting and unique book to read. I enjoyed how it was a book about a man that did not give up even though most of his inventions did not work out. He was a good role model to his children in the story and it translates to the reader of the book as well. The illustrations in the book are what really brought it to life. I thought it was neat that at the end of the book they tell the audience that it was based loosely on a true story about a man attempting to build a subma ...more
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
What does it take to be an inventor? Ask a lot of questions. Be observant to the world around you. Learn from your mistakes. Be persistent. All ideas that are central to this book.

A fictional account of inventor Lodner Phillips, the man who designed The Whitefish, a submarine. After his first attempt, which "almost worked", more questions are asked and more ideas abound. He then creates the second attempt, which also "almost worked." The process continues until he has a successful submarine. And
Michael Blackert
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complete
I really enjoyed reading this book and the message from the author; if at first you don't succeed try and try again. In this book the father (papa) loves inventing things and in some cases they turn out great and in other cases they do not work so well. Regardless of the outcome, he never gives up and continues to build his dreams. One day as the family heads to Lake Michigan one of the daughters asks the father if he ever wondered what it would be like to be a fish? Papa immediately runs to his ...more
Holly Mueller
This is a lively fictional story based on the real inventor, Lodner Phillips. Papa loves to invent things, but he hasn't invented anything that works perfectly. However, one day, he takes his family fishing, and he gets an idea! He starts to design a mechanical fish, and he calls it the Whitefish. But it doesn't work. It sinks. He tries several more times, but all his designs fail UNTIL the Whitefish IV! I love the ending. I also love Mama, who lovingly supports her husband's trials and errors. ...more
This is a really enjoyable book with fantastic illustrations. A father, who has failed at many of his other smaller inventions, decides to build a submarine to take his family under the lake.
At the end is a write-up explaining the origins of the story based on the true story of an 1851 inventor named Lodner Phillips who actually took his family in a submarine he built in Lake Michigan. According to the author's research nobody knows what happened to the submarine after it was on display for man
I'm putting this on my nonfiction shelf because as Candace Fleming writes in her author's note at the end, it's "almost" true. Lodner Phillips really did take his family for a trip underwater in one of his inventions.

Every time one of his "mechanical fish" sinks, Papa responds, "It almost worked." I love that failure doesn't make him give up. I love that the daughter (the narrator of the story) is the out-loud wonderer who inspires some of Papa's revisions. I love that the baby chimes in as wel
High Plains Library District
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jan, children
I shared this book with a group of 75 1st graders, promoting our STEAM summer reading program, and they loved it! If you get 1st graders to laugh and take part in a nonfiction book about an inventor they never heard of, I'd say you have a winner.

The story is loosely based on the inventor, Lodner Phillips, who became obsessed with building an underwater vehicle. Reading through the book, you'll see pencil drawings of his submarine daydreams. These drawings are great for discussing how new inventi
Terri Van Loon
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ed-689, non-fiction
This non-fiction text tells the story about the invention of one of the first submarine's. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl whose father is working on this invention. The girl tells about how her father has failed in his attempts to create a "mechanical fish" over and over, but each time he fails he comes up with a way to improve his invention. Eventually, his persistence and innovation pays off. I think this would be an excellent text to teach students about engineering de ...more
Fatima Parra
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for children in grades k-5! It is about a father who wants to invent something but every time he tries, it never works. Papa keeps thinking about what to invent when he finally gets an idea when he and his family go fishing. He decides to make a machine that will take him underwater and let him see the fish and almost be a fish. It took him several attempts to finally get it right but with the help of his family he want able to make a working submarine! This book is based on ...more
Fatima Parra
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for children in grades k-5! It is about a father who wants to invent something but every time he tries, it never works. Papa keeps thinking about what to invent when he finally gets an idea when he and his family go fishing. He decides to make a machine that will take him underwater and let him see the fish and almost be a fish. It took him several attempts to finally get it right but with the help of his family he want able to make a working submarine! This book is based on ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fictional story about an inventor based on the life of Lodner Phillips who tinked with submarines for many years in the 1800s on Lake Michigan.

This is a great read aloud for school age children. There's a delicious mechanical sounding refrain and the many kinks in the inventor's plans add humor.

The main character's spirit is so inspiring. I like the way he views the world, always thinking about what the journey's like from another point of view. He's never deterred by design flaws either. He j
Rachel Grover
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Loved it. Awesome story of perseverance during the invention process, getting feedback from others (in this case, Papa's kids) and that inventions are hardly ever perfect the first time. The illustrations are excellent and give the reader opportunities to infer the other characters' thoughts about the inventions he creates. I appreciate the ending and its opening for a possible sequel, or follow up activity for readers. Great authors note with sources at the end, too! Will be purchasing for my M ...more
Jason Röhde
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My son and I both enjoy this book immensely. It's been a bedtime story staple for over a year now as he has turned from 4 to 5 and there is no end in site for us. The story is funny, engaging, and the illustrations are wonderful. It's an all time favorite bedtime story for us both.

The fact it is based on a true story makes it all the more fascinating. We both love the description of the actual mechanical fish in the back of the book (complete with historical photo) and the story is not complete
Papa's an inventor. When fishing with his children one day, he ponders what it would be like to be a fish underwater. Papa builds many prototypes and finally finishes with a Whitewater submarine that can carry him and his family under Lake Michigan's waves. This is based on a true story.

Inference lessons: After each failed attempt, using the pictures and the children's comments, what can you infer Papa will change about his prototype next?
The Styling Librarian
Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming, pictures by Boris Kulikov – Don’t you love when curiosity leads to inventions? Simple questions lead to inspiration? Persistence and determination pay off? I love how this book presents more messages of hope than you might ever expect.…
I thought it was interesting to reflect on the history of submarines, how they developed with innovation and necessity, and how some inventors don’t succeed with their endeavors…
Emily Metroka
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked that this book included a bit of a formulaic repetition aspect to it. Machine doesn't work, try again, machine doesn't work, try again. This book is definitely best suited to elementary age children. Hopefully the talk about the scientific elements in the submarine (plunger, air compression, etc.) will encourage readers to ask questions and look into more about this invention! This book would go perfectly with a program on inventions or STEM. ...more
Erin Buhr
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This story is loosely based on the true inventions of Lodner Phillips who invented one of the first submarines and tested it in Lake Michigan with his family. The story of Papa's Mechanical Fish is full of tinkering, problem solving, and perseverance in the best kind of way. The imaginative world of this creative man is brilliantly captured in the playful and fantastical illustrations by Boris Kulikov. A wonderful book for the child who loves to invent and tinker. ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
3, 4, and 5 year old classes were completely engaged and entertained by this story. They wanted to predict what was going to happen next: would the invention work or not? There were some chunks where the text didn't explicitly state what had happened and the illustrations weren't super clear, but for the kids that were confused by that, it worked as an opportunity to infer what might have happened to get from one event to the next. ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a fun work of historical fiction loosely based on an inventor whose obsession with submarines during the early 1800's showed how truly ahead of his times he was. Kids might enjoy pointing out the flaws in Papa's designs and how they would have designed it themselves. ...more
A young girl tells the story of her inventor-father's multiple attempts to build a submarine-style ship that mimics a fish. Based on a true story of Lake-Michigan based inventor, Lodner Phillips, this hilarious tale would be a great one-on-one story. ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014-long-list
I really dislike how the mother is portrayed in this book.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
While I appreciate what Fleming was doing with the structure of the text, it didn't work for me. Especially the mom always being the practical, prepared one while Papa did whatever he pleased. ...more
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