I guess I should preface this by saying, that I know at some point T will read The Rainbow Fish, either at school or daycare or on her own. I won't stop her from reading anything, unless it's something too mature for her (probably not too many restrictions there either), but I won't encourage this one.
I also want to say that I have not read any of the follow up stories of all the adventures Rainbow Fish goes on so maybe it gets better, but I just don't know about it.
When you work in a bookstore, people ask you all the time “how do you take home a paycheck?” Well, because this is my living, I have to pay my bills and feed my child so I don't have a lot of choice. At the same time, I understand the question and I do have a very difficult time talking myself out of buying all of the books. Due to a small apartment, I've gotten much better, but there are still times when I buy impulse books, then realize that I maybe shouldn't have.
Rainbow Fish was one of these. I remember that I read this as a kid. It's a classic, after all. Who doesn't love Rainbow Fish?? I bought it as soon as I saw a used copy come through because I thought, “I have to read this to T.” Then I did. All I could think after I re-read this book was that I think I'm missing something.
Maybe the board book version of Rainbow Fish leaves too much out of the story, maybe the regular version has something more to it. But in the version I read, I was left with a feeling of “I don't want to fill my daughter's head with this.” I understand the point of him learning to share, I really do. What I don't love is that he has to give away everything he loves to have friends. I don't love that he gives up who he is, that he can't be beautiful and have friends. I don't love that no one will be friends with him unless he gives them things. Maybe I just read too much into this one, maybe I'm overly cynical. Either way, this was not the lesson in sharing that I wanted to teach T. So I'm getting it back out of the house.
I would like to suggest another of Pfister's books, though. I know most people only know Rainbow Fish from him because it's the biggest/most popular one, but I also picked up Milo and the Magical Stones and really loved it. This is a story of a mouse who realizes that the only way to save his world is by working together with the others in his community to find a solution. There are two endings, a happy one and a not happy one. I think this one teaches a great lesson about working together and I will definitely read this one to T. Although, she'll probably have to be a little older since there are a lot of words, which requires a lot longer attention span than she currently has. If she's anything like me, though, she'll intentionally pick out the longest bedtime story possible when she's a little older.