The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

Inside: A book review of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and accompanying book activities.

I have a wonderful “old” book to share with you today!

The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish: Book review and story extensions!
The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish
Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrations by Dave McKeen
Harper Collins Publishers, 2004 (rev. ed.)
Suitable for ages 6-10

Themes: Brothers and Sisters, Fathers, Barter

Synopsis: A boy decides to trade his dad for two goldfish. Hilarity ensues when he tries to get his dad back but discovers that he’s been traded for a myriad of different items.

Opening Lines: One day my mom went out and left me at home with just my little sister and my dad. My dad sat in front of the television reading his newspaper. My dad doesn’t pay much attention to anything when he’s reading his newspaper.

The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish: Book review and story extensions!

Why I Like This Book: I was attracted to this book by both the title (very unique, right?) and the artwork. What child hasn’t felt frustrated at one point by either a mother or father who’s completely wrapped up in something else?

I enjoyed the matter-of-fact way in which the boy trades his dad for the two fish. Fish?!? His Dad is so boring that even goldfish seem more exciting!  And I love how we never actually see the dad; he’s always hidden behind the paper! As the brother and sister begin the long search for their father it feels suspenseful. Where is he? Will they find him? What weird and wonderful objects has he been traded for?

I also enjoyed the exchanges and inevitable teasing between the brother and his sister. It was low-key, but realistic and entertaining.

And the artwork! It’s a combination of drawing, painting, photography, found objects and collage. I find Dave McKean’s style engrossing; there’s so much to look at. In this book he uses some very warm and rich tones of rust and gold, with some green, purple and blue for contrast.

The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish: Book review and story extensions!

Story Extensions:

1.When reading the story aloud to a class, it would be really fun to stop at the appropriate points and ask the children to guess what they think Dad has been traded for. You could have them do some quick sketches to show their predictions.

2. If you’d like to talk about the bartering system and the history of money, this Youtube video is informative and very funny. It’s for older children though.

3. Discuss the story afterwards and the feasibility of trading your father. Is it realistic? Even if you were super mad at your Dad would you want to trade him? And tie in this discussion with the father/son incident (on the last page) that prompted Neil Gaiman to write the story. Even the youngest children will realize how silly and funny the idea is.

4. You might like this fish-inspired Father’s Day card from The Best Ideas for Kids (just to show dad you really DO love him:)

5. If you feel inspired to complete a goldfish craft, this one from The Craft Train looks fun.

You can find more great book reviews at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Thanks for stopping by


4 thoughts on “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish”

  1. Wow! I love Gaiman's work. Will have to find this one. I'm sure the library has it. The illustrations seem to glow in an old sepia-colored newspapery way so they pull me in to the text immediately.

  2. This looks like a strange and fun story. I just read his book Art Matters. A quick book of advice, thoughts, and ideas. Now I have placed a hold on this interesting selection. I read Fortunately,The Milk to 4th and 5th graders which is a chapter book where dad goes out to get the milk and when he finally comes home, he explains to the kids who have been waiting for him, all the things that happened on his short trip.I love the goldfish craft. Those are too cute. Maybe too cute for this book, but would be a fun activity with kids, none the less.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!I'm going to check out Art Matters; that's one I haven't heard of.Yes, the goldfish are definitely on the cutesy side but I can live with that. Haha!Take care.


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