CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006
Carl, the Christmas Carp.
Ian Krykorka. Illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
Christmas stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Myra Junyk.
Reviewed from f&gís.
This Christmas was no different. They walked around their neighborhood for hours, made dozens of stops and asked what seemed like hundreds of questions before Radimís father finally settled on a carp. The vendor fished it out of the container, weighed it and put it in the canvas bag they had brought with them. Radim and his father wished the man a merry Christmas and headed home with their prize.
It is Christmas-time in Czechoslovakia, and Radimís family is once again celebrating by cooking the traditional carp for Christmas dinner. Radim joins his father in the selection process, and, when they come home, Radim is fascinated by the carp now swimming in his bathtub! He even nicknames the carp Carl after his uncle Carl! As Christmas approaches, Radim feels increasingly guilty about eating the carp! He even asks his mother if they could have chicken for Christmas dinner instead of Carl. She tells him that no one eats chicken at Christmas!
Radim, however, cannot imagine eating Carl, and he enlists his friend Mila to help him free the carp in the Vltava River. Carl is afraid that his parents will be very angry with him for letting their Christmas dinner go! When he tells them the story, they try to find another fish, but it is too late. Milaís father knows the whole story and invites Radimís entire family to their home for a dinner of Christmas chicken!!!
Ian Krykorka has created a picture book about Christmas traditions in Czechoslovakia. Although his prose is a bit predictable at times, Krykorka does tell an interesting tale. Each year, Radimís family selects the carp for their dinner from huge wooden barrels filled with fish on the streets of Prague. The story revolves around Radimís relationship with the fish. Since he has come to think of the fish as a friend and not a meal, Radim cannot bear to see it killed for Christmas dinner! The excitement and anticipation of celebrating Christmas in a traditional manner is captured in Radimís story. His friendship with Mila, and the compassionate way that her father responds to Radimís Christmas dinner predicament shows the beauty of friendship.
The illustrations in watercolour and ink are glorious, vibrant and evocative of the city of Prague in the Christmas season. Snow covers the ground, trees are bare, and mist is rising from the ice on the Vltava River! The architecture and scenery of this ancient Czechoslovakian city also come to life in the illustrations. The illustrator, Vladyana Krykorka, who is also the mother of the writer, has given us a feeling of what it is like to live in this beautiful city: the marketplace, the skating rink, the Christmas lights, and the swans swimming among the ice chunks on the river!
Carl, the Christmas Carp could definitely be used as a read aloud for children at home and with students in primary classrooms. Radimís story will inspire discussion about issues as far ranging as: animal rights, Christmas traditions, holiday meals, Czechoslovakia, friendship, parents and children.
Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.
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