Authors: Ken and Angie Lake
Illustrators: Vishnu Madhav and Joyson Loitongbam
Publisher: Sweet Cherry Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-78226-029-5

Little toy, hear this rhyme,
Let it take you back in time,
Tales of sadness or of glory,
Little toy, reveal your story.”
Robin’s grandpa casts his magic spell on the toy in Ken and Angie Lake’s story, Carlos the Cod.

Targeted toward preschool to middle school aged children, this small paperback is part of “The Diaries of Robin’s Toys” ten-book series. With no scary or violent scenes, it is ideal to be read out loud to beginner readers due to some complicated words. Having different punctuation, capitalization, and spelling rules in the United Kingdom, the format may confuse American readers. Written on notebook-looking lined paper with easy-to-read font, the black and white illustrations by Madhav and Loitongbam are simplistic yet understandable.

In this complicated short tale, Robin waits for his grandpa to pick him up to go the car boot sale (similar to a swap meet in America). Robin looks out the window and sees a girl trying to smoke a cigarette in the rain. He thinks about his friend Angus, who hangs out with the wrong friends.

When they arrive at the sale, Robin is allowed to pick out one toy. This time Robin picks out a toy fish. At home, Grandpa casts a special spell on it, knowing it has an interesting story to tell.

The fish tells them he is a cod named Carlos that has grown up in a school of fish called a shoal. Feeding at the bottom of the water is boring, tempting Carlos to swim with an older shoal that frequently goes to the top.

Sneaking out one night to join the older gang, Carlos gets caught. The next day his parents take his friends and him to an aquarium so they can watch people. The fish see punk rockers along with a young girl smoking a cigarette. Carlos realizes he should not smoke nor hang out with the wrong crowd.

Learning from the cod, Robin sees Angus at school with a bunch of rough kids. When he walks over, he is pushed into the mud but Angus helps him up, apologizing getting involved with the wrong people.

By teaching not to smoke, this book not only focuses on how the wrong friends can be a bad influence, it provides some information about the life of a fish. Although many concepts are discussed in the book, children will enjoy reading how a toy’s story reveals educational information while teaching important lessons.

Thanks to the publisher and Bookpleasures for furnishing this complimentary book in exchange for a review of the reader’s honest opinion.