The best “finny” picture books about fish

Who am I?

I love fish—to look at and read about—not to eat! Fish are unlike other pets. You can’t hold them, or pet them, and you certainly can’t “play” with them the way you can other pets. But for some reason, just looking at them makes me laugh. And because fish don’t say much besides “glug” (although some kinds sing and grunt) we need to imagine what they are thinking and feeling which makes for funny and surprising stories. And, yes, I have pet goldfish: an orange one, Norman, and a black fantail named Knot. 


I wrote...

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story

By Kelly Bennett, Noah Z. Jones (illustrator),

Book cover of Not Norman: A Goldfish Story

What is my book about?

Norman the goldfish isn’t what this little boy had in mind. He wanted a different kind of pet — one that could run and catch, or chase string and climb trees, a soft furry pet to sleep on his bed at night. Definitely not Norman. But when he tries to trade Norman for a "good pet," things don’t go as he planned. Could it be that Norman is a better pet than he thought? An unexpected — and positively fishy — tale about finding the good in something you didn’t know you wanted.

The books I picked & why

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Memoirs of a Goldfish

By Devin Scillian, Tim Bowers (illustrator),

Book cover of Memoirs of a Goldfish

Why this book?

Ever wonder what your goldfish is thinking as it’s swimming around inside its fishbowl? Written in a diary format, this goldfish’s account of life in his fishbowl—blissful aloneness—until much to his distress the fishbowl begins to fill, first with a fish nicknamed “Mr. Bubbles” because that’s all it does, then plants, a snail, a crab and more and more. Which all seems too crowded, too slimy, too much until, fishbowl cleaning day. Isolated and alone again, the goldfish realized how much he misses his new friends.

Memoirs of a Goldfish

By Devin Scillian, Tim Bowers (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs of a Goldfish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Day OneI swam around my bowl. Day Two I swam around my bowl. Twice. And so it goes in this tell-all tale from a goldfish. With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life..until one day... When assorted intruders including a hyperactive bubbler, a grime-eating snail, a pair of amorous guppies, and a really crabby crab invade his personal space and bowl, Goldfish is put out, to say the least. He wants none of it, preferring his former peace and quiet and solitude. But time away from his new companions gives him a chance to rethink…


The Pout-Pout Fish

By Deborah Diesen, Dan Hanna (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pout-Pout Fish

Why this book?

Pout-Pout fish is a grumpy looking, grumpy acting fish who “spreads the dreary-wearies all over the place” and everyone he encounters tries to talk him out of being grumpy. Simple as that, but not! The Pout-Pout Fish books, every one of them, combines three elements that make a fabulous read-aloud: fun/interesting to look at; fun and easy to read; fun satisfying ending. Diesen’s Pout-Pout bouncy rhyming rhythm will jolly the grumpy out of everyone—whether fish or human. Yes, the refrain will get stuck in your heads—in a good way!

The Pout-Pout Fish

By Deborah Diesen, Dan Hanna (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pout-Pout Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

"Deep in the water,
Mr. Fish swims about
With his fish face stuck
In a permanent pout.

Can his pals cheer him up?
Will his pout ever end?
Is there something he can learn
From an unexpected friend?"

Swim along with the pout-pout fish as he discovers that being glum and spreading "dreary wearies" isn't really his destiny. Bright ocean colors and playful rhyme come together in Deborah Diesen's fun fish story that's sure to turn even the poutiest of frowns upside down.


Swimmy

By Leo Lionni,

Book cover of Swimmy

Why this book?

The classic “David and Goliath” theme of a smaller hero conquering a mighty adversary—but with a fishy twist! A school of small red fish and one black fish, Swimmy, all live together happily until “one bad day” a huge tuna gobbles up all the red fish. Only Swimmy, who is faster than the others, gets away. At first Swimmy is lonely without his friends but then bravely begins exploring the wonders of the sea. When Swimmy finds a new school of red fish, he tries to get them to come out to play. But they are too afraid to go out because a big fish might eat them. Then Swimmy gets an idea. He trains the school of small red fish to swim in formation like one big fish, with him as the eye. 

Swimmy

By Leo Lionni,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Swimmy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The gorgeous, Caldecott Honor-winning tale of a very clever fish by beloved picture book creator Leo Lionni.

Deep in the sea lives a happy school of fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger.

Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Honor, this beloved tale of a brave little fish has been a favorite to generations of readers. To celebrate Swimmy's fiftieth anniversary, we are issuing…


Louis the Fish

By Arthur Yorinks, Richard Egielski (illustrator),

Book cover of Louis the Fish

Why this book?

Looking for vegetarian options? This Reading Rainbow selection, published in 1980, is a masterpiece in story and art! Louis, who was born into a family of butchers, hates meat. But he loves watching fish! After his parents die, Louis inherits the butcher business. One night, Louis, who is miserable being a butcher, dreams he is a fish. When he wakes, he discovers he is a fish. A salmon. A very happy salmon who swims gleefully ever after. The story is a springboard for discussions on the importance of being true to yourself.

Louis the Fish

By Arthur Yorinks, Richard Egielski (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Louis the Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unhappy butcher from Flatbush finally achieves happiness.


Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet

By Kelly DiPucchio, Bob Shea (illustrator),

Book cover of Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet

Why this book?

Do you ever wondering if your pet might want a pet? Gilbert is a goldfish who absolutely does. So, when pet candidates begin showing up, Gilbert’s “fishy little heart” pitter-patter-swishes delightedly. But the dog was too barky-bark, the sniffy mouse was rude and the fly…went splat! Gilbert had all but given up when what seems to be the purrfect pet comes sniffing around—looking very hungry! Bold bright cheerful art and language make this a must read-aloud! 

Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet

By Kelly DiPucchio, Bob Shea (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gilbert has almost everything his fishy heart could desire: a castle, a chest filled with treasure, and food that falls from the sky. But there's one BIG thing missing from his life: a pet. And so begins Gilbert's harrowing search for the perfect fishbowl companion - a search filled with loud barking, quiet buzzing, and one giant whiskered surprise!

With snappy, rhythmic text and the most irresistible goldfish in picture book history, this tale of fish woe and triumph will make readers long for a pet as lovable as Gilbert.

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5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fish, friendships, and family?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fish, friendships, and family.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Rainbow Fish, Song for the Blue Ocean, and The Little Black Fish if you like this list.