From Owl to Fish

The Sleepy Owl was Marcus Pfister’s first book, published in 1986 by NordSüd. Brigitte Sidjanski, co-founder and editor of NordSüd, loved The Sleepy Owl and encouraged Pfister to create something similar.

But what did Brigitte mean by ‘something similar’? I couldn’t figure it out and put the project aside, until one day the sleepy owl caught my eye. Looking at it, I thought, of course! In the owl’s feathers I could easily see fish scales, in the owl itself a rainbow-colored fish. In the end, the style was the only remaining common feature of the two books, but this was how Rainbow Fish was born.

Marcus Pfister

Why glitter?

If colorful scales were the only thing special about Rainbow Fish, then all of the other fish would have to be made to look very drab. So Marcus Pfister looked for something more—an unmistakable feature that would clearly set Rainbow Fish apart from the other fish in the sea, a feature that underlined how special his glittering scales were. That’s when he remembered the hot foil stamping that he worked with as a graphic artist.

Adding the foil made the story feel plausible. For Rainbow Fish to just give away a colorful scale wasn’t so special. But to give away a glittering scale, that was something entirely different.

Marcus Pfister

The Rainbow Fish was the very first children’s picture book to use hot foil stamping to create such a sparkling foiled effect. After going on sale, it was soon clear that the first printing of 30,000 copies would not be enough. This would prove to be the case; 30 million books and counting have sold worldwide in more than 50 languages.

Rainbow Fish Can Speak…

Arabic, Cambodian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, English, Faroe, Friesian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Ladin, Norwegian, Papiamento, Persian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, Swiss-German, Slovenian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese ...