Cover Image: The Magic Fish

The Magic Fish

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Member Reviews

I love this graphic novel! Both the story and the illustrations are gorgeous! I always recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful, heartfelt graphic novel, both kids and adults.
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The Magic Fish has multiple focuses: Tien trying to figure out how to tell his mother that he is gay, and his mother dealing with having escaped Vietnam. The story is told well, weaving several as pests into one connected story. The illustrations in this graphic novel are absolutely incredible! I love the different color palettes to differentiate between the different parts of the story - past, present, and fairy tale.
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An absolutely beautiful graphic novel that was somewhat confusing at times but had wonderful characters and a stunning story that was supported by amazing art.
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Such a beautiful story of a boy who doesn't know how to tell his mother one of the most important things about himself. They are connected by fairy tales and she uses a final story to let him know how much she loves him. The art in this title is muted but stunning.  The fact that Tien has supportive people in his life is a refreshing view of the coming out story.
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Full disclosure, I was predestined to love this book because I have been following Trung Le Nguyen's work online for years--his line work is always breathtaking and the creativity and magic of his pieces is captivating. So when I found out he was illustrating an original graphic novel, obviously I got my hands on it as soon as possible. 

And just like his line work, The Magic Fish is delicate and entrancing storytelling, marrying visuals and words with ease. The illustrations are evocative and emotive, combining the myths and folk tales of the mother with the harsh reality of immigrant life for mother and son. If you are a fan of graphic novels and good storytelling, you cannot miss this book!
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The Magic Fish was amazing coming of age LGBTQ graphic novel revolved around Vietnamese-American middle grade kid and his mother. The story was about communication gap because of language barrier, immigration, family, love, hope, grief, gender identity, coming out to parents, and importance of stories.

I loved the first line- “They say we’re meant to go from here to there, but so much happens between those two places.”

It started with Tiến mother talking about language how his mother, Helen, wanted them speak the same language as she speaks Vietnamese while Tiến speaks English so they made a habit of reading library book everyday after dinner. It was hard for them to communicate about their feelings with each other. Tiến didn’t know how to tell his parents he was gay as he didn’t know the Vietnamese word for it.

It was amazing to read how they discussed hard topics through the stories they read and found the right balance that was love.

Everything in this book was perfect. Author packed so much emotions both in words and expression of characters in this short story. I loved characters.

Tiến was lovely and I loved how he cared for his parents, read stories, and discussed and expressed things through it. His feeling for not able to coming out to his parents fearing he might mess it up was realistic and touching. I felt for him for what happened after the dance, and how he had to face teacher’s homophobia. His frustration was genuine.

His friendship with Clare and Julian was great. I loved how they both supported him and how Julian understood his feelings.

This wasn’t just about Tiến but also about Helen’s struggle as immigrant, how hard it was to leave her own country and family to have safety and future in other country and what it cost her. Her loss, grief, guilt, how she felt stuck in-between because of the change from of her past and present, and for Tiến not able to tell her things was heartfelt. I loved how she talked about it and how she let Tiến know about her feelings after knowing he was gay.

It was awe-inspiring how author interwoven Tiến and Helen’s story with three fairy tales– the German Allerleirauh, Vietnamese Tam Cam (2 relative Cinderella tales), and Little Mermaid.

After reading Allerleirauh, I realised part of that tale was also in Spin The Dawn book and I haven’t read that original one until mentioned in this book. The Vietnamese tam cam was gory and dark. Little Mermaid was amazing. The twist given to all three tales perfectly complimented to Tiến and Helene’s story.

Art was beautiful. I loved how colour segments changed for present, past, memories, and fairy tales which made it easy to identify the change and made transition smooth. The expressions of characters, all other deatils were amazing. I loved the dresses in all three fairy tales. I enjoyed reading author’s inspiration for those dresses, this story, and bonus art in the end.

Overall, The Magic Fish was simply beautiful teen/YA graphic novel that packed many layers and stunning artwork. If you love graphic novels, diverse story, story about immigrant and coming out to parents, I highly recommend this.
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2021 Maverick List. This beautiful graphic novel shows how a boy uses fairytales to connect to his parents that speak Vietnamese and struggle with English.  The main character Tien is also struggling how how to tell his parents he is gay especially since there is no word in their language for it. Heart warming story that intertwines fairytales into their families life.
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Spectacularly magical story about a mother and son figuring out how to communicate to one another. I LOVED the illustrations and color palette that show us the difference between Tien's present day, his mother's memories, and the fairytales. This is an acceptance story to get swept away in.

I also loved the retelling of the fairytales in the story. Though dark at times, they were intriguing and inquisitive. What a great thread to bond the family over and create their own story together.
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Absolutely beautiful graphic novel. The use of color to tell the present story, the mother's story, and the fairytales is subtle and beautiful. There is stippling and highly detailed art. The story deftly weaves how fairytales help a gay son and his immigrant mother from Vietnam understand each other. It uses the fairytales to avoid cliches about immigration and a coming out story.
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Please see the link below/attached for my review of The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen.

https://wordsofmysteryblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/11/book-review-the-magic-fish-by-trung-le-nguyen/
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Stunning and absolutely gorgeous. This graphic novel was a joy to read. It does a great job of alternating between the real world and the fairy tales that Tien and his mom read. The color palette was simple yet extremely effective and really set the tone for the stories as well. I loved it.
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I absolutely loved this. Between the stunning art and the feel good story this was a perfect read. The only thing I question is the title. Although The Magic Fish is mentioned it's not the only story told and I think it could have had a title that more closely matched the story as a whole. 

Tien has been hiding that fact that he's gay from his mother and father. Struggling for the word in Vietnamese to tell them and struggling with revealing something not knowing how they will react. His mother and him bond over stories, specifically Fairy Tales. Throughout the narrative three Fairy Tales are told. Two seemingly Cinderella stories and a Little Mermaid tale. These are all beautifully illustrated and work seamlessly in the story itself. With alternating panels of Tien's life at school and his relationship with his mother we see a story that deals with so many difficult topics in a way that isn't too heavy or upsetting.
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Wow. Just, wow. This is such a gorgeous book! Full of layers, full of feels. There's a lot going on, but it all blends seamlessly. The first layer of story is set in the late '90s United States, and follows our main character, Tiến, a 13 year old boy. Tiến is the son of Vietnamese immigrants; they understand English better than they speak it, and speak Vietnamese at home, while Tiến speaks English and understands Vietnamese. He has two best friends, Julian and Claire, and he has a secret- he has a crush on Julian. He's told Claire his secret, but he doesn't know how to tell his parents; he asked a librarian for help, but they couldn't find a word or term for "gay" in Vietnamese. Then we have a layer for Tiến's home life, where he reads the fairy tales he and his mother love aloud while she does seamstress work at home. We get to read along with the fairy tales as well, stories within the story. The first is Allerleirauh, a German version of Cinderella, known as Donkeyskin or Tattercoats in English. This leads us to a third layer, his mother's memories of her and her new husband's journey from post-war Vietnam to the U.S., and the sacrifices they made to do so. When she has to return to Vietnam suddenly, we hear the second fairy tale from her aunt, Tấm Cám, a Vietnamese version of Cinderella. While she's gone, things happen that I'm not going into, because I don't want to spoil anything, and after she comes back, we get our third fairy tale, an altered version of The Little Mermaid she reads to Tiến, to help her express her feelings. And the feels, y'all! Omg, all the feels, they're everywhere! If I had stopped here, it would have been a wonderful story. But then I read the author/illustrator's note at the end, about immigrant stories, how immigrants are fit into stories in the minds of people, and become characters and tropes. Oh, hi, there's more feels exploding in my heart! Then there's an afterword on the fairy tales- the similarities between stories of different cultures, how he chose how to illustrate each story from the point of view of the person telling it, all the details that went into each story. The stories all have a theme of someone going from one world to another, the struggle to fit into this new world, the feeling of being stuck between the world one came from and the world one is in now, and how one finds one's place. There is more in these after notes too, enough information to consider that I read the story again, and it gained new depth and context. This was all masterfully done, and that was a big wow moment by itself. Add in that beautiful, evocative art, and mind = blown. The rendering of the art is so gorgeous, simple at times, lush and lavish at others. The illustrations are done in black and white, and then washed in colors that denote what we're seeing- the present is shown in tones of red, memories are golden, the fairy tales in shades of purple, allowing the reader to move effortlessly from one perspective to the next. It's all just so perfect together! I've never seen story and art blend so well. Without a doubt, one of the best graphic novels out there.

 #TheMagicFish #NetGalley
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Using the scaffolding of fairy tales, Nguyen creates a beautiful story that focuses on a Vietnamese mother and her American son. Absolutely exquisite storytelling, and a beautiful, quiet gem of a graphic novel.
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What a magical story. I truly learned so much about language use and how meanings vary between words. I loved the flawless transitions between present day and fairytales. The elements of Vietnamese culture and experience were eye-opening and incredibly important. I loved this a lot and will read anything that this author writes.
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Loved the art, the color schemes, everything. I do think I need a second reading to absorb it more, which is a slight detraction for me -- maybe less vividly interesting for teens than others.
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I rather adore this book. There isn't much action and the plot is fairly straightforward. The real beauty is in the reading of fairy tales.We have these largely familiar stories told in a less familiar way. The messaging is more subtle than in the Disney versions,. We're seeing communication between mother and son almost entirely through story. And the artwork is absolutely gorgeous. A great book to read, reread, and discuss.
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This book was absolutely magical. The art was unlike anything I've seen, and I've read a LOT of graphic novels. The story was beautiful but the fairy tales inside the story were absolutely breathtaking. I can't wait to see what comes next from Trungles!
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The artwork was so beautiful! I loved the way the characters used stories to communicate. Definitely a favorite of the books I read this year.
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The Magic Fish is up there with all time favorite graphic novels Nimona and The Prince and the Dressmaker for me. It is a beautiful coming out story that I think everyone needs to read. 

Tiến and his mother bond over fairy tales. They read them together as a way to escape life's hardships. He also uses them to teach her English, since he is the child of Vietnamese immigrants. Tiến needs to share his secret with his mother--that he is gay. Using the layers of fairy tales on top of the main story line, the author allows the reader to become swept up in the lives of these characters. My heart broke and was pieced together during the course of the novel and I wanted to give Tiến a big hug by the end. A gorgeous story of acceptance, love, fairy tales, and family. I wholeheartedly recommend for teens and their parents. I loved this book.
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