“Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirrr! That’s the sound of Papa at work” starts the fictionalized account of the building of one of the first submarines in Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov. Virena, the oldest daughter in the family proudly relates the story of her father who spends his day inventing things. It doesn’t matter to her that he has never managed to invent something that actually works and it certainly doesn’t stop him from trying!
One day, in a fit of frustration he takes the family fishing on the pier where Virena fatefully asks him what it is like to be a fish. Suddenly inspired, Papa races back to his workshop and quickly gets to work. The rest of the story goes through his attempts and failures at building a submarine, each version improved by a suggestion from Virena. Each submarine is bigger than the last, and his fourth version is big enough to hold the entire family including the dog. Much to everyone’s delight, the entire family successfully goes beneath the surface of Lake Michigan for hours. After their adventure, papa is peacefully basking in his success until Virena asks “have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a bird….”
This is a great book with an engaging story line and expressive images as every member of the family goes along with Papa’s madcap adventures. The Author’s note includes a little more information about the actual building of the Whitefish submarine and inventor Lodner Phillips’ attempts to sell it to the U.S. Navy.
While you may not be able to take a submarine tour while visiting Chicago, you can get a look at what’s going on underwater with a visit to the Shedd Aquarium which includes a Great Lakes’ Exhibit, perfect for imagining you’re in one of the Mechanical Fish!