Review first appeared online in June 2016 – Now republished here.

Title: The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
Author: Ahn Do-hyun
Publisher: Pan Books
Genre: Contemporary
Book format: Paperback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  The life of the salmon is a predictable one: swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn, and then to die.
This is the story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different – who dares to leap beyond his fate. It’s a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love. For swimming upstream means pursuing something the salmon cannot see: a dream.
Translated for the first time into English, The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher is a wise, tender and inspiring modern fable about finding freedom and a harmony with nature we have either forgotten or lost in the binding realities of life.

Review:  During their return to their spawning grounds one salmon, named Silver Salmon, stands out. Not only are his scales a silver colour, marking him out from the rest of the other salmon, but he also has a curious mind, a mind that wonders what the meaning of life is. This is a poignant and thought provoking story told from the point of view of a salmon.

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher is a short book and quite easy to read. The author is a Korean poet and this book is the first translation into English which might explain a problem I had reading it. The book begins with the author explaining the reason behind writing the story ‘the only way to truly understand salmon is to see the world through their eyes’. But this is more than just a simple book about salmon returning to their spawning ground and the journey there, the main character Silver Salmon constantly questions the meaning of life and many of his questions and musings make you question human life.

The story is a beautiful one but it was hard to really enjoy the book due to what I can only assume was a problem with translation. The book switches between present and past tense but this is done very randomly and with no meaning to it.  To me reading in this way  just confused the plot and took away some of the enjoyment.  This was especially annoying during the really deep and more poignant moments of the tale. Despite this movement of tense though the story is still a good read especially in the second half.

Along the journey the salmon speak with each other as well as with the river and other beings.  This can seem strange but some of the conversations are quite profound.  Not only do you learn more about salmon and their journey but the whole story can actually make you wonder about the purpose of all things in nature, it’s this part of the book that really got to me and I really enjoyed. However, despite all this, parts of the book seem almost silly such as the name of one of the salmon ‘Bag-of-Bones Salmon’, again perhaps wrongfully translated but it did make certain scenes in the story less serious for me.

The book has some lovely illustrations making it easier to read and it feels more like a book for children or one to read with children rather than aimed at adults. The story is heart-warming but also sad and I have mixed feelings at the end of reading it.  Apart from the translation problems, which take away some enjoyment, I find the story of Silver Salmon and his views on life at the end a little sad.  While this is a great book for teaching us about nature and the meaning and purpose to life, it isn’t a book to instil dreams and hopes. It’s for this mixed response at the end that I give it a 3.5 strawberries (but for good count I’ll round it up to four), I liked it but not as much as I had hoped.

Do you like this book?  What do you think about books from the point of view of animals?  Have you read any books from foreign authors?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂