Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Harcourt, 2006). Ugly Fish is a big bully, and as a result, he finds himself lonely in the tank. What will happen when a bigger, meaner fish moves in? According to Kara’s flap bio, she “was inspired to write this story after reading an article about childhood bullying,” in which it was reported that some kids said they’d thought being mean was “cool.” For those who like their picture books with humor and bite. Ages 4-up.
For a long time, it seemed the prevailing theory was that bullies had low self-esteem. This is just anecdotal, but I was bullied by a girl in fourth grade, and my tormenter seemed quite comfortable with herself. In any case, that line of thought seems to be falling by the wayside, so books like this one are confronting the theme more head-on.
The two books have nothing in common except they’re both about fish–arguably about dead fish. But for some reason, reading Ugly Fish reminded me of Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka (Orchard, 1998), which was controversial at the time because of its dead-fish narrator.