The Catfish Palace


32 pages
ISBN 1-55037-317-X
DDC jC813'.54





Illustrations by Ruth Ohi
Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is co-author of The Ethical Shopper’s Guide to Canadian
Supermarket Products and associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


Hazel Hutchins has written a very powerful little book about a little
girl who discovers her own power to make real changes in the world.
Cindy lives near a pet store called The Catfish Palace. In the store, a
large catfish is kept in a big cement aquarium, but the aquarium is not
big enough for the huge fish. Cindy begins to avoid the store because
the fish makes her sad, but when winter comes and she can no longer ride
her bike across town to a different store, she must return to buy things
for her own pets. When she enters the store, she discovers the catfish
has died.

In an effort to keep another fish from being imprisoned in the small
space, Cindy writes to the owners of the pet store, asking that they not
buy another catfish. Maybe they could change the store’s name, she
suggests. Weeks go by and the name stays the same, but the next time
Cindy and her mom enter the store, they discover a wonderful surprise.
The owners have filled the aquarium with a display of toy cats fishing
with tiny fishing poles. One of the cats wears a little heart with the
words “For Cindy” printed on it.

This book portrays Cindy’s dilemma and initial feelings of
powerlessness simply, but with dignity and respect. It will be
appropriate for readers of many ages, as very young children will
understand Cindy’s sadness and share her joy at the end, while older
children will be affected by the way in which Cindy is able to make a
difference. The sentences are short and the language simple, although
there is some challenging vocabulary. Ruth Ohi’s colorful
illustrations suit the text extremely well and are often drawn at an
interesting angle, which seems to lend another perspective to the text.
This thought-provoking book is appropriate for children from preschool
years to middle primary grades. Recommended.


Hutchins, Hazel., “The Catfish Palace,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,