Written by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Lisa Brown
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in a bowl on the dresser in a boy’s room.
The plot in a nutshell: A lonely ghost looks for company.
Goldfish Ghost gets bored in the bowl so he floats up and out the window, in search of someone to talk to. He wanders through the town, avoiding the lighthouse that is rumored to be haunted. The birds near the docks are yelling about the fishing boats and aren’t particularly good company. The people in the town are all busy with various activities and no one noticed pays him any attention. He is pleased to see a bunch of other fish ghosts floating above the ocean and he joins them for a while, but doesn’t feel at home there. He returns to his bowl and finds a new living goldfish in his old home. He hears a voice saying it’s looking for company and he follows it to the lighthouse where he meets the ghost of the former lighthouse keeper. He asks if she is all alone and she tells him that she’s not alone anymore and they live there happily together.
Bookshelf favorites Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown blend the macabre with the sentimental in this unusual story. The story starts immediately after the main character has died, which is definitely something different for a picture book. There’s a sense of detachment that follows Goldfish Ghost as he travels through his afterlife and you can tell that even among those who are similar to him, he feels different. So when he finally meets the lighthouse keeper, who seems to be in the same situation as him, it makes for a wonderful conclusion, filled with connection and contentment.
Ms. Brown’s artwork is done with India ink and watercolor and is full of details, especially in the illustrations of the beach and town, filled with people going about their business. What I love about this is how clearly it shows that someone can feel lonely and isolated, even when they are surrounded by people. There is nothing frightening in the depiction of the ghosts in this book and the lighthouse keeper is depicted as kind and cozy, wrapped up in a warm coat and scarf. I can see comparisons here to people suffering from depression, moving to a new town or just getting over a breakup or loss and it emphasizes the importance of finding someone to connect to, which is a great takeaway. This book gave me a lot of food for thought and I liked it quite a bit.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that even when you feel all alone in the world, there is almost always someone out there somewhere who is looking for someone just like you.