The Rainbow Fish is an award-winning children's book drawn and written by Marcus Pfister, and translated into English by J. Alison James. The book is best known for its morals about the value of being an individual and for the distinctive shiny foil scales of the Rainbow Fish. DHX Media turned the story into a 26-episode animated television series of the same name, which has aired on the HBO Family digital cable television channel in the United States since 2000.
The story follows the beautiful Rainbow Fish, who is covered in colorful shiny scales. Proud and vain, he thinks he is better than all the other fish and will not play with them. When one small fish asks the Rainbow Fish for one of his scales, he rejects him. The other fish then refuse to talk to the Rainbow Fish at all, so the Rainbow Fish visits the wise female octopus for advice. The octopus advises him to give away his scales to the other fish.
When he encounters the small fish a second time, the Rainbow Fish gives him one of his precious scales, and is very soon surrounded by other fish requesting scales. Eventually, the Rainbow Fish has only one shiny scale left, but he is no longer vain. He spends his days playing happily with the other fish.
Others believe the book promotes the idea that giving away all—or, in this case, almost all—of one's worldly possessions is best, or that one must give up one's unique identity in order to be accepted by society.
Another interpretation is that Materialism is the driving force behind the world. You cannot have friends without buying them first. Others argue that this book maintains a socialistic undertone promoting children to emulate these political methods.
The critics' claim is that the story does not promote healthy sharing, but rather advances the idea of a socialist society where wealth is redistributed to the point where everyone has the same amount of wealth, and individualism and capitalism are wrong and should be shunned. These ideas are in contrast with traditional American values, and are seen by some as a way to undermine them.
Neal Boortz argues that the book is "insidious", because it "aims at human beings who are still at their most impressionable age.." and "too many American parents have no idea just what kind of message they're imparting..." because parents and teachers see the book as story with a "sharing and vanity moral" instead of the straightforward text of the material.
Rainbow Fish: The proud, vibrant fish that lives with his mother and father. His favorite movie is Claminator 12. He loves it so much that it can lead to problems. He likes to play Clam ball, a fictional game.
Principal Gefillte: The proud Principal of The School of Fish, he is strict about behavior. Sometimes, he can get vain. Rainbow gets annoyed when he insists that they all have to write book reports.
Sea Filly: In one of the episodes, she is a new girl in school. She is a beautiful seahorse, though she is half girl, half seahorse. She eventually becomes friends with Rainbow and Blue. She is often seen reading books
Blue: Rainbow's best friend, who is more down-to-earth and thoughtful than Rainbow. He also enjoys playing Clam ball, and also loves Claminator 12. He is a blue fish and has a baby sister called Turquoise.
Ruby: She is Rainbow's older sister. She is rude and ruby-colored. Sometimes, she gets Rainbow into trouble. She has her own personal nickname for Rainbow; she calls him "Barnacle Boy".
Mrs. Chips: The teacher of the school. She teaches history, mathematics, science and literacy.
Wanda: She is the owner of the Neptune Bay fast food restaurant. She is very wise and when Rainbow is down she will always gives him advice.
Chomper and Stingo: The two bullies of the school. They do not really commit acts of physical violence but they can tease Rainbow and his friends. Chomper is a shark while Stingo is a stingray.
Sherman Shrimp: The smallest of the school. He is a salt-water shrimp. To him everything looks big. In the episode where he arrives to Neptune Bay, Rainbow treats Sherman as a shrimp. In the end when Rainbow gets stuck deep in the bowels of a shipwreck, Sherman hears from the TV and goes and rescues Rainbow. Rainbow apologizes for his behavior.
Sol and Aqua: Aqua is an aqua-colored fish and is Rainbow's Mom. Sol is purple and is Rainbow's dad. They can help their daughter and son whatever way they can and will always provide them with great courage.
Sir Sword: Local swordfish, upper-class and a bit of a busybody. He is sometimes grumpy, sometimes civil, but always seems to think he is better than everyone else. Plays Santa Sword to the kids at the local Guppies hospital.
Ret and Snapper: The two builders. They appear in only one episode, Moving Away. Rainbow thinks they are going to be moving and Ret and Snapper will buy the house. He and his friends plan to make the house as much of a wreck as possible in order to put off any potential buyers. His parents reveal they were going to build a new recreation room.
Goldie: She appears in only one episode, Shy Blue. She has a crush on Blue, and Rainbow attempts to bring them together. However, Chomper and Stingo soon ruin the plan.