Candace Fleming and illustrator Boris Kulikov pair up to tell a fun story about a real submarine inventor in Papa's Mechanical Fish
Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That's the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that's because he hasn't yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?"—and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa—who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips—creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
This quirky tale based on actual, less whimsical events of the 19th century profiles a would-be inventor and his indulgent family. Out fishing one day, daughter and narrator Virena happens to ask, "Papa... have you ever wondered what it's like to be a fish?" "Uh-oh," interjects Virena's prescient baby sister, as their inspired father races for his workshop. To a refrain of "Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirrrr!" Papa sets to building a series of submarines, which he tests in Lake Michigan. Kulikov (Max's Castle) pictures Papa's wishful blueprints, optimistic dives, and soggy results; Fleming (Oh, No!) matches the outcomes to revealing remarks from the family, from Virena's speculative, "Papa, how do fish stay dry?" to Mama's, "I'm so glad I brought along this life preserver." Gigantic orange fish and sturgeons observe and seem to aid in the experiments, and the family's French bulldog glances at readers in comic disbelief. Fleming developed this tale from the real-life story of 1850s inventor Lodner Phillips and a submarine dubbed the Fool Killer; thanks to a bibliography, readers can research this oddball narrative alongside another daredevil history, Queen of the Falls. Ages 4 8.