Mischievous monkeys introduce an unexpected element to their animal orchestra in the children’s picture book There’s a Gong in My Fishbowl.
Members of the animal orchestra arrive to rehearse, along with their conductor, a crow who soon barks out orders: “Clarinet! Oboe! And you, too, Miss Flute!/ I’d sure like to hear all your very best toot.// “Miss Piccolo, your B-flat is simply too sharp./ Please tune up before the next time that you start!”
Then, on the night of their big concert, the monkeys sneak in their pet goldfish in a “great big glass bowl.” Everyone performs well, but when one monkey strikes the gong with great force, it falls into the fishbowl. The audience loves this finale and screams for an encore, which the text wittily explains, “means I want to hear more!”
The writing is suited to young readers, with playful rhyming verse set to a nine-minute piano piece notated throughout; readers can play an MP3 file by scanning a QR code. It’s an innovative, effective idea, and the vocals and music are excellent. Unfortunately, the text doesn’t include definitions or a glossary to explain the musical terms (“crescendo,” “diminuendo”) and notations (“Moderato ♩=80,” “Andante ♩=84”) that appear on every page. Other orchestral traditions could also have been better illuminated, including the practice of referring to musicians as “Drums” and “Strings,” among other identifiers.
The art is dynamic and amusing but ultimately unpolished. An image of the orchestra appears on five separate pages with only minor changes on the last two. While a line claims Miss Peacock broke a harp string due to sharp claws, the illustration shows her playing the instrument with her wings. In one spot, the main text appears over old, abandoned text, resulting in a distracting palimpsest appearance, and sudden text font changes are jarring.
Such flaws detract from enjoyment, but the book’s spirit of playfulness and the novelty of its soundtrack make it a unique and intriguing offering.
Also available as an ebook.