Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Leo Espinosa

Sometimes it’s hard being a goldfish. You dream of growing fat and exploring coral reefs. But instead here you are in a bowl. Going round and round in circles.

And sometimes it’s hard being a child in the summer in the city. All your friends leave and there’s no one to play with. You dream of escaping the steamy heat, too. But instead here you are in an apartment. Going round and round in circles.

But sometimes—- well, something happens to change all that…

That is a beautifully designed page BEFORE the title page. It adds such a sense of drama. I find the narrative voice in this story so fresh and compelling. Something very big is about to happen and I cannot wait to read more! Comparing the lives of children to the lives of goldfish?

We are then introduced to three children with funny names. “H, Little O, and Baby Em”. They live in a tall round building in the city.

And then we meet their three goldfish. Their names are funny, too. “Barracuda, Patch, and Fiss”.

There is an old fountain outside their building that is broken and covered in ivy. Grandpa tells them stories about ‘back in the day’ when it was bubbling and beautiful.

Suddenly, a sign appears in the fountain,

“Coming in Two Weeks!

Calling all goldfish looking for a summer home”

The children watch with bated breath as the fountain is tended and restored. Before they know it the big day has arrived. And here is that witty narrative voice again,

“… because of all the children! The children and the children and the children crowding around him! All of them waiting to drop off their little fish children.”

Here is a glorious spread with adorable kids all facing the reader. Such joy and happiness. Sally Lloyd-Jones and Leo Espinosa have taken a fairly mundane event and elevated it to being a powerful, sharing, and connecting community ritual.

And then… the fish need to be returned. This might be my favorite line,

And so the goldfish— who may have been Barracuda and Patch and Fiss, or some other goldfish altogether— went back to being fish in a bowl.

What a great story! Such fun little twists and witty humor. Fantastic illustrations, so beautifully designed with the kids almost always surrounded by a round rug mimicking a gold fish bowl. The illustrations perfectly enhance the engaging and uplifting text. They feel full of life, happiness, excitement.


At the very end. On the very last page. Is a fairly inconspicuous Author’s Note.

This story is true!

Well, the event is true. Obviously, the author has invented the characters around a real NY city event that occurred during the summers from 1992-2005.

Didn’t see that coming. Made me love it all the more!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. LOVE this book. Anything by Sally Lloyd-Jones, actually. But this one really gets you with that bit at the end. And, yes. The illustrations! Happy, happy.

  2. Whoa – it is true??? Amazing! I want to know more AND to read this endearing tale. Wow!

  3. Judy Sobanski’s

    I love this book and never noticed the repeated circular images in the illustrations. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

  4. Debra K Shumaker

    Oh my gosh, this sounds so fun! I must now go to my library website to make sure they have this book!

  5. What a great story -so original! and I love the illustrations! This is sure to be winner hook, line and sinker! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  6. Oh my gosh this book looks like so much fun!

  7. I love this soooo much. Congratulations Sally and Leo!!

  8. Janet Frenck Sheets

    The title alone makes me smile.

  9. Deborah Buschman

    So much fun! Vacation in a fountain.

  10. Michelle Andersen

    I can’t wait to read this! The illustrations make me so happy!

  11. What great fun! I loved the line about the goldfish hanging back in their bowls when first lowered into the water and then darting away. The spread with everyone wading in the fountain makes me want to do it too. Yay!

  12. Wow! Such a fun, true story!

  13. Love this book! Such a clever, joyous story. Definitely want to get this one, Jennifer.

  14. What a touching story. I will ask our librarian to order it. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I hope you enjoy it, Carole. Thanks for stopping by our blog!

  16. I love it! Can’t wait to read this one. What a fun picture book and idea!

  17. Oh Wow! This looks so beautiful and FUN!!!

  18. Ha! This looks really fun, and I love the illustrations. I’m glad you answered my question about how the kids knew which goldfish were their own (they didn’t!). Nice to think the goldfish enjoyed their little taste of freedom…

  19. That last illustration you shared, Jennifer, makes me want to jump in, too. Thanks for sharing.

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