The Boy and the Girl
Wait. Who? The boy and the girl are the characters that tie much of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish together. But surprisingly, the reader never even learns their names. In fact, if it weren't for the illustrations, you wouldn't even know they existed. Just who are these kiddos?
Despite their namelessness, the children in the story are central to it all. Without them, the reader would miss out on all their observations and commentary on the strange creatures parading about. And what good's a parade without commentary? The book would just be an overwhelming collection of rhyming words without much to connect them besides bizarre imagery. Oh wait. That sounds a lot like a parade.
Putting Things in Perspective
The boy and girl lend to the story their own perspective. At the beginning of the book, it is their take that we're first introduced to:
We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast.
And some are slow. (46-49)
It is through the eyes of the boy and girl that we get to observe all the creatures and wonders that the Seussian world of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish holds. They are the ones who tell the story, giving the reader the tools to imagine the kooky creatures that they meet, leaping off the page.
The children don't just tell us what they see, though. Oh no. They have their own opinions about the world they live in, and they are not afraid to share them. They've got their likes:
We like our bike.
It is made for three.
sits up in the back,
you see. (95-99)
Here, they tell us readers all about the simple pleasure they get from biking around with their pet Mike, who helps them conquer hills. What a useful guy, Mike.
But the boy and the girl are not just content with telling you the nice things that they think about their pets. They aren't afraid of real talk when it comes to the pets they're not so fond of. Yep—they've got their dislikes, too:
I do not like
this one so well.
All he does
is yell, yell, yell.
I will not have this one about.
When he comes in
I put him out. (170-176)
Ouch. The boy does not mince words here, does he? Not only is it helpful to have the children's opinion when navigating through this forest of rhymes, it's necessary in order to propel the story forward. If they're game, we're game. We get to see the strange creatures through their eyes, without a reader's skepticism or disbelief. These kids are game to take each creature on their own terms, and make their own judgments, which are, we should point out, never all that judgey.
Without the perspective of the boy and the girl, it would be impossible for the story to come together in the way that it does—as a retelling of the adventurous day they have just had. They bring this long list of whacky whackadoodles into a cohesive whole. Without them, it'd just be one long list of loony loons, and what fun would that be?
Those crazy kids in the book aren't just sitting at home twiddling their thumbs or playing video games (let's be honest—who twiddles thumbs anymore?). No, they are out having the kinds of adventures that only a completely awesome (or oblivious) parent would allow. And the best part is, they're also encouraging you—the reader—to do the same.
When we first meet the tykes, they're hanging over a ledge staring into the water at a totally thin fish and profoundly plump one. One page later, they're posted up in a tree watching some creatures run by in the blazing sun:
Here are some
who like to run.
They run for fun
in the hot, hot sun. (31-35)
Throughout the book, the children race from one place to another, showing off their quirky, offbeat collection of pets, and generally finding themselves in what could be considered very perilous situations.
From the Mike that helps them bike to a Gox that boxes with the boy, there is no shortage of creatures and adventures to cater to the kids' every whim. And whims they have—up the wazoo. They seem willing to try just about everything, and they totally want the reader to, too:
If you never did,
These things are fun
and fun is good. (268-271)
Like Buzz Lightyear, these kids are eager to go off into uncharted lands (or into space) just for the fun of it. And they want everyone else to get on the same page.
Zookeeping starts early in a Seussian world. The children have all sorts of fun pets, and after flipping through the book, we must say that they're fully qualified for a stint as a safari guide. But the silly creatures aren't just there to be stared at through a sheet of Plexiglas, or from the safety of a jeep; the boy and girl have real and interesting relationships with all of these odd creatures. They get out there and mingle with the mad ones.
There's Mike, who helps them with biking, and their Zans, which serves as an awfully helpful can opener (bet you wish you had one in your kitchen). There is even the literal harmony between the boy and his pet Ying, who sings with him.
I sing high
and my Ying sings low,
and we are not too bad,
you know. (203-206)
The boy and the Ying have worked out a system where they can join forces and belt out some lovely duet renditions of the latest Adele hit. In fact, the boy and the Ying are illustrated as quite the duo; in the image, they are both singing happily, mimicking each other's form as they bathe. Too cute.
Of course Seuss doesn't leave the girl out, either. She gets her own pet bonding time with the unnamed creature with fabulous blue hair (239-249). In the image, the girl stands behind the pet, which preens and looks perfectly pleased with its own personal stylist. The boy is also depicted later on cutting hair for a long line of Zeds (287-297). The lesson here is that obviously hairdressing is the quickest way to make new friends. That's a tip to remember.
At any rate, what's awesome about this boy and girl is that they don't take these pets for granted. They have actual bonds with the creatures; they enjoy each other's company and do each other solids if need be. Most folks might write off a blue-haired creature as nothing more than a total whacko. But not these kids.