Little Black Fish is not like the other fish in the stream; he longs to see what lies beyond their little world. A story about the wonders and dangers that await a fish that dares to be different.
The Little Black Fish is a longer-style picture book first published in Persian in 1968 and banned in Iran before the 1979 revolution. It comprises large blocks of text broken up by beautiful illustrations on every page, but the story flows so well that it is easy to read it all in one sitting. Miss 5 in particular enjoys hearing the adventure of Little Black Fish from start to finish.
Little Black Fish is a thinker. He lives in a section of stream between two waterfalls with many other fish who spend their time swimming up and down and around. He is not satisfied with his routine existence, however, and longs to head out and explore the wider world. But when he mentions his plan, he comes up against fierce opposition from the other fish, including his mother.
Supported by his friends, Little Black Fish makes his escape. As he slides down the waterfall at the end of his stream, he enters a completely new world. It is a world of beauty where he has his first encounter with a scuttling crab, a shepherd boy and bleating goats; he hears quail birds laughing and breathes in the scent of mountain herbs. In one magical scene, he even talks to the moon. But Little Black Fish also discovers that dangers lurk around every bend in the stream. He meets a doe who has been shot by a hunter. He is scooped up by a pelican and turned on by the tiny fish who have joined him on his journey; he is attacked by a swordfish and captured by a seabird.
As we accompany Little Black Fish along the stream towards the sea, we see him grow as a result of his adventures and thirst for new knowledge – and not just in terms of size and strength! He shows many positive qualities including intelligence, courage, curiosity, determination and empathy (for which he makes the ultimate sacrifice).
The illustrations are big and bold with a rustic block print feel. Farshid Mesghali uses a limited palette, combining great swathes of textured colour with stylised waves, beautifully patterned black fish and other creatures. Then he adds pops of red – such as Little Black Fish’s eyes and the birds’ beaks – creating truly eye-catching artwork.
The Little Black Fish is an inspiring story about daring to be different, following thought with action, and having the courage to explore the wider world. It has special relevance for those living in societies where venturing outside the status quo is – or was – a hazardous undertaking.
The Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi, illustrated by Farshid Mesghali, translated by Azita Rassi (first published in Persian in 1968 by Kanoun Parvaresh Fekri; this edition, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017)
Samad Behrangi was born in Tabriz, Iran in 1939. At the age of 18, he started a career as a teacher in the rural districts of Azerbaijan. He is best known as a children’s author, but he also wrote many pedagogical essays and was an avid collector of Azeri folktales, which he translated into Persian. He was critic of the education system, both textbooks and curriculum, in Iran. He died through drowning at the age of 28, although many believe his death was no accident.
Farshid Mesghali is an animator, illustrator, graphic designer and writer. He was born in Isfahan, Iran in July 1943 and studied painting at Tehran University. On graduation, he worked for 10 years for the Institute for the Intellectual Development for Children and Young Adults in Tehran. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his contribution to children’s book illustration in 1974. He moved to the US 1986 and is currently working on various projects in his Tehran studio.
Azita Rassi translates from Persian into English. She has translated eight children’s titles for Tiny Owl. She lives in Malaysia.