TITLE: Papa’s Mechanical Fish

AUTHOR: Candace Fleming

ILLUSTRATOR: Boris Kulikov

PUBLICATION INFO: Farrar Straus Giroux’s Margaret Ferguson Books, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-39908-5

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: picture book (historical fiction)


“This is my papa.

And this is his backyard workshop, where he spends his days thinking … tinkering … and inventing things.”

From the publisher: “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 workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, science, inventions

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I like this book because “it’s almost true,” as Fleming states in her author’s note. Fleming uses her note to tell us what’s known about Lodner Phillips and his various submarines, as well as what remains unknown. The book does rely upon made-up dialog, accompanied by repetitive phrases, and plenty of onomatopoeia for lots of read-aloud fun.


You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!


    1. Susanna, I’ve been looking at this one and THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS for ideas. I have a couple of PB biographies in mind, but am not sure how much information is available. Perhaps I’ll work on one in your class. Is your post up? I don’t see it to link this PB.

  1. I’ve had my eye on this book, but haven’t been able to get my paws on it yet. I really like Mr Kulikov’s art. And it sounds like a fun story. I feel like a fish sometimes! Thanks for sharing. I’ll be checking it out for sure!

  2. Great opening for the book. What a great story about kids watching a creative parent invent things — even though many of the inventions don’t work. Follow your passion. Like that it is based on an “mostly true” story.

  3. This book sounds like a great idea gone wild. It is so good for kids to see adults try and try at hard things.

    My PPBF is about a fish, too, but not the mechanical kind. ha ha

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