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The Rainbow Fish

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  129,161 ratings  ·  2,916 reviews
The Rainbow Fish is an international bestseller and a modern classic. Eye-catching foilstamping, glittering on every page, offers instant child-appeal, but it is the universal message at the heart of this simple story about a beautiful fish, who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions, that gives the book its lasting value.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published 1992 by North-South Books
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  129,161 ratings  ·  2,916 reviews

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Kat Kennedy
Sep 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: My infant son's enemies/rivals
I'm always on the look-out for new, well-written children's books for my son. We had been reading him: Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! and Why Mommy is a Democrat.

He loved the story and drawings!




However, he didn't seem to take to them as much as I thought he I decided to find something else as informative, well-balanced and fun to read with my child.

Then I came across The Rainbow Fish by Macrus Pfister.

The Rainbow Fish is a story about a spectacular fish with amazing s
Petra is skipping Mon & going straight to Tue
I've just read a one-star review of this book that was, to me, highly amusing. It has been one-starred because the reviewer thinks it is nothing but socialist propaganda, in other words it's going to lead toddlers and little children straight down the Red Road to Communism.

I'm pretty sure the reviewer is American since no one in Europe would actually care whether it was socialist propaganda or not, socialism being a perfectly acceptable political philosophy there. Indeed many governments have b
Jun 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: kids-books-read
Ahem. Nice little book that teaches sharing, or subtle liberal socialist propaganda which teaches to give away all and anything special about yourself or what you have for the betterment of the whole?

You might think I'm being ridiculous, but I was a bit alarmed at this children's book when a professor in a teaching class read it to us aloud. Basically, Rainbow Fish is special because, unlike the other fish, he is special and has many colors of the rainbow on his fins. The other fish grow jealous
2 Rainbow Fish ★'s

*A BEAUTIFUL book that has an UGLY message!*

I absolutely loved this book when I was in elementary school. But looking back now, I don't think I completely got the "message" that I do now. Back then I was just so enthralled by the illustrations because well let's face it the artwork is gorgeous and sparkly. I thought it was a book that teaches kids the fundamentals in sharing and making friends and giving of oneself. But at last, that is not the case. The little Rainbow Fish b
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Or: How to Buy Friends Who Were Jealous of You

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for teaching kids to share and to not act like little snots. But there's something disturbing in the idea that Rainbow Fish has to give away all but one of his beautiful sparkly scales (toys, possessions) to the other jealous fishies so they'll be his friends.
Sep 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children, classics
This is another one of the books that horrified me when I read it to a younger family member without pre-reading. Another, you are a bad adult moment. I still can't believe how popular this book is with the self-crippling message it espouses.

Everyone says, this is all about sharing and isn't that wonderful. We all want children to learn the value of community and sharing. These are basic tenets of being a social animal and being in a group. Admirable goal without a doubt.

That's not this book's
Yusra  ✨
Jun 01, 2018 added it
Shelves: children-s
all I remember is reading this over, and over, and over, and over as a child. don’t remember what it’s about, but I loved it.
Mar 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
I'm all into sharing and stuff, but this little guy was basically told that he had to give away everything that made him special just so other fish wouldn't be jealous and mean. Is this fair? Heck no!

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from The Incredibles, when Dash says something along the lines of, "If everybody's special, then NOBODY is."
Apr 17, 2009 added it
A chilling tale about a young fish who learns that no one will ever like him--until he gives up the thing that makes him unique and becomes just like everyone else.

Of a genre with The Giving Tree and the stalker classic Love You Forever.
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a children's book that I have read to my twin boys. This was one of my favorite book when I was a kid, and my twin boys really loves when I read this book to them. I love the message in this book. I also love the bright pictures in this book. I writing in this book is cute and written so that young kids can pick up on the message. Great children's book, and I have read this book a ton. (*) ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Classic beginning book
I love the sparkly scales of the Rainbow Fish. This story is all about sharing and how good it makes us feel to share. I love the idea, but the Rainbow fish has some sparkly scales and they grow from your body. They are part of skin and you can’t simply pull them out. So the idea of sharing rainbow scales is about sharing who we are or our gifts. Fish can’t literally pull off scales. I simply thought that part was weird.

Still, the idea is strong and it works for the story. Everyone gets a scale
May 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children
I thought the message in this book was not good for children. We have to give things to people so they will like us? What? Sure, this book is trying to teach about friendship and giving of oneself, but where in the book do the other fish stop being selfish and jealous? Those are not qualities that should be rewarded, and the poor rainbow fish has to give away all of his lovely scales to jealous, hateful fish. Just awful. I think it would be a lot different if the other fish were in "need" of som ...more
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Read this with my daughter. The sparkly fins on the fish were cute and caught her attention and story was a good one about how to share with others and how it will make you happy.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: guidance counselors.
Recommended to Leigh by: Hand me down
I'm fairly hard pressed to truly dislike a children's book, but the message of this story is awful. This beautiful and unique fish meets some horribly jealous fish who won't befriend him. In order to be accepted, the rainbow fish must give up all of his scales to bribe the other fish to be his friends. What kind of message does this send to a child? I could see a child, having experienced unkind treatment, deciding to give away all her favorite toys trying to become popular on the playground bas ...more
My wife and I had previously discussed the way this kids book makes us feel uncomfortable. The moral of the story seems to be that if you do not give away whatever makes you special, you will never have any friends.

So imagine the big goofy grin on my face when I check it out on GoodReads and see several of my GR friends indulging in scandalized rants about the socialist propaganda hidden within these seductive cardboard pages...!

I'm not going to go that far. It's really a very sweet little story
Jul 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody really
Shelves: children
Now, the Rainbow Fish had scales that were shiny.
something something and act like a hiney.
the plain fishes gave up asking him to play,
something rude something, he swam away.

Later a plain fish requested a scale
"absolutely not," he sputtered, turning pale.
"they're mine. they're me. they're attached to my body."
Screamed the plain fish, "well I think they're gaudy!!"

much later, lonely and wanting some fun
he cried, "I know! I'll give away all but one!
THAT will make up for me being a tool!"
But before
Megan M
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
When I was about six, we had a book fair at school. You remember them - some company would take over your school library for the week and everyday you'd be asked to walk around and look at all the books you couldn't afford. At least, that's how I remember it. But this time, I became completely infatuated with one book in particular and could see no others. It was The Rainbow Fish. Everything about the book was magical to me and I begged and begged for the money to buy it. Finally, after days of ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children-s, one-star
So this special and unique fish has to give away his scales in order to have friends and be liked by the others? I don't think so -_- Ho about liking him for who he is? No, right? Unless he "shares" his scales with everyone, he will be an outcast! Yay! Ugh. ...more
Crystal Dawn
I'm a little confused by all of the negative reviews. A vain and completely self-centred fish is under the impression his friends love him simply because he's beautiful. When he is openly rude to one of them, letting his much smaller and less fortunate 'friend' know that he is of an upper class and doesn't have to associate with him (never mind sharing with him) they refuse to talk to him to show him how rude he was. It's not until he shares his 'wealth' and forgets his own beauty and class that ...more
Jun 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
I am all for teaching children to share and make friends, and I'm also all in favor of beautiful books about animals.

So I sat down to read this book to my infant son. And was horrified.

Here is the plot:

Rainbow Fish is lovely. He has lots of sparkly silver scales. None of the other fish have these silver scales. Rainbow Fish does not play with the other fish. But one day, a little blue fish asks Rainbow Fish for one of his shiny scales. Rainbow Fish, understandably thrown, says "NO, those are pa
Skylar Burris
Jul 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens
My daughter has already asked me to read this several times since checking it out form the library. I like that the vocabulary is not as dumbed down as in most modern children's books.

I can see and somewhat appreciate some people's problem with the book as being a sort of socialist piece of propaganda that uniqueness is unacceptable and everyone must be brought down to the same level.

On the other could instead be a Christian message.

I have no idea whether or not the author is Christ
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I personally love this book, despite the fact that other people are so outraged by it. I find it kind of funny that people seem to be reaching for meanings, maybe as a means to back up their own personal feelings about things. Anyways....

The Rainbow Fish is very vain and thinks he's better than the other fish because he is so beautiful. He learns that being the most beautiful fish is not what is really important. I won't spoil it, but I think it's a great book and teaches valuable lessons.
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m surprised I’ve never read this to my kids before tonight 🤪. I would def say that is a book that a parent would probably read to a early reader and might be a easy read for a child in 2nd or 3rd grade and older.
This book is about a little fish that is the prettiest in the ocean that has glimmering scales. The other fish would like to be as beautiful as this fish so they ask if they can has a scale each. The rainbow fish is rude and no one wants to play with him. Rainbow fish has to learn to
Mississippi Library Commission
Last week, the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden visited our library! While she was here, she led a special storytime for students from the Mississippi School for the Deaf. The Rainbow Fish is one of her favorites and the book she chose to read to the kids.


The kids loved this tale about a bright and fancy fish who learned a valuable lesson about making friends and sharing. They also loved receiving their own copies of the book to commemorate the occasion. This was pretty much the best stor
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: children...of ALL ages
Reread. Sweet, simplistic story about pride and how to overcome it through generosity.


One I remember enjoying with my daughters when they were little. Thanks for reminding me about it Skylar!
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
Delightful prose and illustrations!
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2019
One of my favourites from my childhood!
Charlotte Dutton
Nov 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Rainbow fish is an award winning book written by Swiss author and illustrator, Marcus Pfister and translated into English by J.Alison James. The story is about a beautiful fish, with glimmering scales, on his journey to find friendship through the act of learning to share. Hesitant at first, this beautiful fish cannot imagine giving away some of his glimmering scales, however, with the advice of a wise octopus, he soon realises he is much happier when he shares his beauty with the other fish in ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was my first introduction to socialism and frankly I am sold! Very insightful plot. 5 stars.
This is one of those where I don't know how I feel about it.

And it isn't the socialism aspect. I am a socialist. And American. I just don't know know...

Re-read edit:

Y'all, the more I read it, the more I find that I don't know how I feel about it. So, the fish is special just because he's prettier?

And why does he have to give up who he is to be happier? That's some messed up stuff, right there. Don't be yourself if you're extra?
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Marcus Pfister was born in Berne, Switzerland, and began his career as a graphic artist in an advertising agency. In 1983, he decided to dedicate more time to artistic pursuits, and began to write and illustrate his first book, The Sleepy Owl, which was published in 1986. His best-known work to date is The Rainbow Fish, which has remained on bestseller lists across the United States since 1992.


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