Title: Carl the Christmas Carp
Author: Ian Krykorka
Illustrator: Vladyana Krykorka
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publ. Date: Sept. 1, 2006
In Czech culture it is traditional to eat carp for Christmas dinner. Some people keep this fish in their bathtub to fatten it up for a few days before the big meal. This is all news to me, but it sounds like a good idea for a picture book, right?
You are in luck.
In spite of Radim's declaration that he would rather have chicken, Radim goes with his father to the outdoor market to buy the traditional carp for Christmas dinner. After bringing it home they set it in the bathtub to live for the next week so they can fatten it up. Disturned by fish dreams and the resemblance of the fish to his uncle Carl, Radim decides to free the fish. One night, he and his friend, Mila, engage in a piscatorial conspiracy and release the fish into the local river. Fortunately for Radim, the Christmas spirit prevails, his parents forgive him easily and Mila's family has them all over for a nice chicken dinner.
Christmas stories from other cultures are always a great choice for holiday read alouds. Carl the Christmas Carp is a fun choice and not many kids' books are set in Prague. I loved Krykorka's colorful mixed media illustrations and we get lots of perspectives of the city from the marketplace to the town square, out by the river, ice ponds surrounded by beautiful old building facades and some apartment interiors. The illustrations are vibrant and Krykorka's brushstrokes create a city under constant siege from a very blustery snow storm. constant. Even the interiors are experiencing the effects of such a strong wind!
There are two more carp-in-the-bathtub stories I have not read yet. One is also set in Prague, the other is about a Brooklyn Jewish family fattening their carp up for gefilte fish.
Visit the illustrator's website.
Read a review at Quill and Quire.
Oh, yes. You can indeed watch you tube videos of people with carps in their bathtubs. Some of them even have uplifting musical accompaniments evoking Jesus. People are so weird.