Revisiting: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

“I’ll swap you my dad,” I said.
“Oh-oh,” said my little sister.

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This was the year of Neil Gaiman for my class.  In the fall I read aloud an ARC of The Graveyard Book, we fell madly in love with it and made a mural, and were thrilled beyond measure when it won the Newbery Award.  The Coraline movie caused much in-class discussion (especially some of the changes from the book) and the kids also enjoyed tremendously my reading aloud Gaiman and McKean’s clever  The Wolves in the Wall.  I then wanted to read to them an earlier collaboration,  The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, but couldn’t find it.  One of my students insisted she’d seen it on a classroom shelf and  we periodically went looking for it without success; I sadly figured it was gone forever (swapped for a dad, perhaps?).  Then as I began cleaning up the last week of school — I found it — safely hidden away in a cupboard.

Of course, I read it and, yes, they liked it.

It is a shaggy dog story of sorts, a clever culminative tale with a perfect balance of words and art. Gaiman’s deadpan voice melds perfectly with McKean’s colorful yet also matter-0f-fact illustrations.  The annoying little sister*, the various pals, the irritated mother, and the dad behind a newspaper — all tropes that are wittily realized in this story.  It is long, Wolves-in-the-Wall-long, and definitely for older kids.  I’ve got the original edition with the above cover (which oddly makes me think of Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia); below is the cover for the HarperCollins edition (and you can browse the book itself here).

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*We got going on annoying little (and big) sisters and I showed them one of my favorite books when really young, Shirley Hughes’ My Naughty Little Sister.

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