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Cover illustration from Clara and Asha. Copyright Eric Rohmann
Clara and Asha
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1997
ISBN: 978-1-59643-508-7, hardcover
Dragonfly Books, 2001
ISBN: 978-0440417439, paperback

Clara and Asha

by Eric Rohmann

In Clara and Asha, a simple storyline becomes the basis for fun and sophistication. Clara’s friend Asha is an enormous fish, which means that hide-and-seek, Halloween, snow days, and afternoons in the park offer surprising opportunities for adventure.

With oil paintings that playfully suggest stories within stories and convey great emotional range, this is a captivating book about the special world of a child's imagination--where a giant fish might come to visit, and the things you do and the things you fell with an imaginary friend are intensely real.

From Eric: I suppose I had some unfinished business with that giant sand fish from The Cinder-Eyed Cats.  Like dinosaurs, fish have always held a special fascination for me, but for different reasons.  I love the variety of shapes and colors, the way they move through water, the flash of silver beneath the surface, the mystery of creatures that live in a place we cannot. And so when I had the notion of a child spending a day with an imaginary friend it was natural that Asha become a fish.  Of all my books, this one disappoints me the most. I decided to return to oil paints, thinking that a more naturalistic treatment of the images would be most convincing for the story.  I was out of practice, and the result is an occasional good image squeezed between trying to hard.  But the greatest disappointment is that the pictures never quite evoke the feeling that I felt for Clara.  This book taught me — teaches me — about trying too hard to make something happen when it doesn’t naturally want to happen.
Reviews Awards
School Library Journal
With his characteristically spare story line and larger-than-life visuals, Rohmann returns to the concept (and nearly identical form) of an inanimate fish that becomes a living playmate, first introduced in The Cinder-Eyed Cats (Crown, 1997). The tale opens at Clara’s bedtime, when an enormous fish glides through her window. The creature is an acquaintance from a sculpture in the park. Ensuing scenes depict Clara and Asha playing ball, stalling during bath time, and coordinating costumes at Halloween. A climactic finale depicts Clara floating on bubbles out of her room and soaring with her protective companion, a situation calling for the artist's signature panoramic perspectives. When an offstage mom suggests that her daughter go to sleep, an alligator shadow on her bedspread hints that the party is not quite over. The oil paintings portray a natural world in all its glorious seasons, brimming with mystery and delight, where time spent with a friend is one of life's greatest joys. Children will revel in the opportunity to see their dreams and longings realized so enchantingly.
—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Rohmann, who won the 2003 Caldecott Medal for the bold relief prints that illustrated his book My Friend Rabbit, switches to sweeping acrylic paintings in this archetypal tale of imaginary escape. With few words, young, pajama-clad Clara introduces Asha, an enormous, smiling blue fish that appears through her bedroom window when she can't sleep. “We met in the park,” she says, and a double-page picture shows her gazing at a fish-shaped water fountain. In the following spreads, Asha gloriously comes to life, and together the friends play outside and in, and, finally, soar through the quiet, thrilling evening sky. Once home, Clara tries sleep again, until she's visited by a new animal friend—an alligator resembling a stuffed toy from a previous image. The words, though elegantly spare, are secondary to the pictures; there’s little story here. The artwork, however, is magnificent. Children will easily recognize the empowering freedom from enforced routine that Clara's adventures bring, as well the little girl’s very real affection for magical friends.
— Gillian Engberg

ALA Notable Children's Books (Younger Readers Awards)

illustration from Clara and Asha. Copyright Eric Rohmannillustration from Clara and Asha. Copyright Eric Rohmann
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