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Wondrous portrait of a family in despair

Fish Don't Melt

Jef Aerts

Matti sets out on the ice road to town on the coldest night of the year to bring his father’s favourite fish to safety. His cousin Jarno wants the fighting fish that belong to Matti’s depressed father to compete during the winter festival. Matti has to keep the fish alive in a hot water bottle on the long, freezing journey. Out on the ice at night, he meets Drika, who is almost blind, and who, like Matti, has a goal to achieve. The two strike up an odd friendship. Meanwhile, time is ticking and the temperature in the bottle is dropping.

In Jef Aerts children’s literature has acquired a new big name
Zilveren Zoen jury

'Fish Don’t Melt' is an atmospheric and exciting story about a night full of threat and disaster, but above all a book about love. It’s about loving one another and finding a way to express that love. The wondrously icy setting adds a fairy-tale touch. In language that is both striking and original, Jef Aerts creates a layered picture of a family who clumsily get in one another’s way. With wonderful dialogue and poetic imagery, he makes 'Fish Don’t Melt' a sparkling narrative.

An eye for detail and the ability to write small scenes like works of art
De Standaard
Such layering, such rich atmosphere and magnificent dialogue, this is unprecedented
Jaap Friso
‘It’s authors like Jef Aerts who keep children’s literature so buoyant’
Edward van de Vendel, Dutch bestselling author

‘‘Fish Don’t Melt is an ice-cold children’s story, and the ‘cold’ here refers to the weather conditions in this book: the depths of winter. Matti walks across a frozen lake to the other shore, to the town, all to save his dad’s best fighting fish, a Betta splendens. Aerts beautifully succeeds in making the reader feel the icy coldness, and the image of the boy with the fish in his Thermos flask and a sheepskin wrapped around it is very touching. Halfway across the ice, Matti meets a girl, Drika, who is also on a quest, and they continue on their way together. This book is a fine read, as Aerts holds you in the spell of this powerful story. And Fish Don’t Melt also clearly shows that Jef Aerts is a children’s writer we should be very excited about: he loves to employ an impeccable, yet adventurous style, but also likes to keep close to his young readers. And he’s a writer who constantly wants to explore new paths, so we have something to look forward to. It’s authors like Jef Aerts who keep children’s literature so buoyant.