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The Magic Fish

The Magic Fish

Book - 2020 | First edition
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"Real life isn't a fairytale. But Tié̂n still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tié̂n, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he's going through? Is there a way to tell them he's gay?"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : RH Graphic, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, [2020]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780593125298 (hardcover)
0593125290 (hardcover)
9781984851598 (paperback)
1984851594 (paperback)
9781984851604 (library binding)
1984851608 (library binding)
Branch Call Number: YGN TRUNG
Characteristics: 229 pages : chiefly color illustrations ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is the... Read More »

List - LGBTQ+ Teen Fiction
RedmondTeen May 27, 2021

Middle School, graphic novel

Real life isn't a fairytale. But Tié̂n still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tié̂n, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are strugg... Read More »

Five stories weave together in this beautiful graphic novel about Vietnamese-American teenager Tien, who is struggling with how to come out to his parents. Inspired by fairy tales and the author's life, this is a moving ode to story. Ages 12-18.

This book is about a Vietnamese boy learning how to get along in the US interspersed with 3 different versions of the Cinderella story, including the Vietnamese version in which the magic comes from a wise fish. It's very lovely and sweet. -AS

From the critics

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May 13, 2021

I read this in one sitting, which doesn’t happen often for me. Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish is a stunningly illustrated graphic novel about identity, family, and the power stories have to connect us. The main character’s relationships with his friends and his mom were so sweet, but were balanced out by some heavier themes later on in the book. The story is mostly told through the illustrations, and I thought it worked really well. This book doesn’t need much text to get its message across. It doesn’t hurt that the art is beautiful—each panel is so incredibly nuanced, and I loved the use of colour to separate different timelines. The whole idea of fairy tales as a method of communication really resonated with me, and I was so impressed by the subtle ways in which the stories mirrored the experiences of the characters. The Magic Fish is a sensitive and unique reminder that happily ever afters aren’t actually the end. I’d have to give it 5/5 stars. -@Ayama of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

ArapahoeLiz May 07, 2021

This is a very sweet graphic novel about a boy trying to tell his family that he identifies as queer, but doesn't know how. Through fairytales the mother and son connect while life is rocky for both of them. I loved this book.

HPL_Ari May 03, 2021

"The Magic Fish" is a beautiful, heart-wrenching graphic novel exploring the relationship between a mother and son who've had very different experiences. Each night, Tiaên reads fairytales to his mother, a refugee from Vietnam, to help her improve her English. But what Tiaên is struggling to tell her is that he is gay.

The graphic novel follows the mother and son as they explore different fairytales together, and Tiaên struggles to find the words to talk to his mother about his sexuality. The artwork in this graphic novel is visually stunning, and the theme of the mother & son relationship was utterly moving.

Seasoned graphic novel readers will enjoy "The Magic Fish," but if you're new to graphic novels, you'll fall in love with this story, too!

Apr 26, 2021

Especially with the Protect Asian Lives movement gaining national traction, this book should be required reading. Nguyen has an insanely beautiful art style, which caused me to take my time on this book, and spend some time looking at every panel. The use of color is breathtaking as well. This graphic novel deals with identity, in terms of both sexuality and race. Artfully switching between the telling of Vietnamese fairy tales and a young boy’s struggle to find himself, Nguyen tells an important story, and does it beautifully. Give yourself a while to soak this book in, it will most certainly stick with you.

JCLLeahP Apr 13, 2021

Thoughtful and well-executed on every front. A diverse array of subplots are handled gracefully, with satisfying visual and thematic parallels woven between them. A heartwarming read and a perfect example of the unique storytelling potential of graphic novels.

Mar 22, 2021

This is one of the most visually stunning books I have ever read.

Mar 19, 2021

I’m a huge fan of graphic novels and this one elevated the format to the highest heights – the artistry, the subtle storytelling, and the emotional arc of the story came together in a really beautiful way. I loved the way the fairy tales were used to show Tiến and his mom’s inner emotions. And I loved the bond between Tiến and his mom! (That last scene between them was so sweet and emotional). This story was so important and the way it was told made my heart ache!

forbesrachel Mar 17, 2021

Two generations find themselves estranged in one form or another from those around them. Both find comfort in fairytales and the knowledge that they have each other. Tiến lives in America with his mother and father who immigrated from Vietnam. He loves reading, has friends, and is a gay boy in a catholic school. Tiến's mother has a job, speaks English as a second language, and has not seen her mother and family in many years. Each struggles with their reality, but by bonding through reading, they find some measure of acceptance. Trung Le Nguyen presents three fairytales that connect to their experiences: Allerleirauh, Tấm Cám, and The Little Mermaid. Each is a story of choice and transformation, that their own lives both mimic and differ from. Different palettes distinguish the fairytales (purples), present story (reds), and past (yellows), as they weave from one to the other to establish these connections. The beautiful illustrations and word bubbles flow across the page, adding a peaceful, dreamy quality to the emotive writing. The Magic Fish does not claim to be the story of every gay boy, or immigrant mother, but just like every fairytale it is one that will speak to the broad experience of so very many. If any lesson can be taken from this graphic novel, it is that stories are always being rewritten.

JCLChrisK Mar 09, 2021

Half of this book is the story of its protagonists and half is retellings of three fairy tales, all woven into and through each other seamlessly. Ultimately, the book is about the relationship between a mother and son in the 80s. Helen is an immigrant from Vietnam, still working on mastering English. Tien is her American-born, thirteen-year-old son, struggling with how to come out of the closet to her with his sketchy Vietnamese--which doesn't even have a word for "gay." The tales they tell and read to each other are a way for them to communicate when language fails them. It makes for a sensitive, magical package that is beautifully illustrated and brilliantly colored (each element gets its own color so readers never have to wonder which story they're seeing). It's a little bit of delight.

VaughanPLKatherine Mar 08, 2021

This graphic novel focuses on the relationship between a mother and son and uses fairy tales to parallel the happenings of their lives. Tien is approaching 13 years old and discovering his sexuality, while his mother is an immigrant from Vietnam who is working in America. Though they both don’t speak the same language, they utilize stories to connect. That is just one of the many beautiful sentiments expressed in this graphic novel.

The illustrations are truly breathtaking, and the story was incredibly moving and unique. At the end of this novel, the author expresses his inspiration, and illustrative elements. I adored that part almost as much as the story itself.

I think this graphic novel is going to stick with me for a long time, and I think if you read it, it will stick with you too.

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Jan 01, 2021

mimiahm624 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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