Reviews | Written by EdFortune 13/01/2021



Fairy Tales can easily be described as the original fantasy stories.  There’s something about these tales that is so primal and so straight forward that we keep re-telling them again and again. Partially this is because they’re all about some element of the human experience, but it’s also due to the lure of the fantastic. It’s easier to cope with the real world with a little bit a sweet fantasy to taste.

Which brings us to Trung Le Nguyen’s amazing graphic novel, The Magic Fish.  This is the story of Tiế n, a young lad who is still trying to figure out the world. His parents are Vietnamese refugees, and in order to help them improve their English (and for him to keep practicing his Vietnamese) they read fairy tales out to each other.

These tales form the framework (and extended metaphor) for Tiế n’s own struggles. The tales are, broadly, re-mixes of both Cinderella, Blue Beard and The Little Mermaid.  There’s Vietnamese folk lore thrown in for good measure and they’re gorgeous stories.  Our protagonist’s main worry is that though he knows he’s gay, he’s not entirely sure how his parents will respond. And he literally doesn’t have the words to tell them; his Vietnamese isn’t that good.

The art is lovely; a gentle balance between cartoonish innocence and brutal fairy-tale. The costume designs are especially brilliant and the visual storytelling is pretty much perfect. This is a story about finding your place in the world, about immigration and about accepting yourself and others. It's suitable for pretty much everyone and is rather special. Recommended.

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