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The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

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"I'll swap you my dad," I said.
"Oh-oh," said my little sister.

What if you wanted your best friend's two goldfish so much that you'd swap anything for them, even your father?

What if your mother came home and found out what you'd done?

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is a hilarious adventure and was the first book for younger readers from the acclaimed author and illustrator of the New York Times best-sellers The Wolves in the Walls and Coraline. Chosen as one of Newsweek magazine's Best Children's Books of the Year, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is beloved by readers of all ages. This new edition features brand-new jacket art and an afterword by the author on the origins of this unique and wonderfully funny story.

64 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1997

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Neil Gaiman

2,056 books306k followers

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5 stars
3,985 (33%)
4 stars
4,540 (38%)
3 stars
2,614 (22%)
2 stars
473 (4%)
1 star
177 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 774 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,235 followers
May 9, 2010
This offbeat story is subversively funny. I really enjoyed it. The newspaper reading dad and the little sister provided a lot of amusement, and the premise was really funny. The illustrations are unique and absolutely brilliant. I docked half a star because of a “fat joke” I could have done without, but otherwise thought this was a hoot. This is a book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, especially children and adults who remember what it’s like to be a child. I appreciated that Neil Gaiman explains where he got the idea for this story in the Afterword. I read a library copy so the accompanying included CD was missing, unfortunately.
Profile Image for Shannara.
448 reviews81 followers
August 8, 2019
Super quirky, cute, delightful, and short! So very Neil Gaimanesque, which means it’s wonderful. Of course I recommend this book!!
Profile Image for Nicolo.
2,322 reviews141 followers
November 12, 2011
I bought this a few years back, hoping that one day I could share Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean work with my nephew. Apparently my sister also had the same idea and already bought her son one.

As thumbed through the pages, I couldn’t help by enjoy McKean’s art. As much as I enjoy Gaiman’s work, it is McKean mixed media mastery that stands out. It is truly a feast for the eyes.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,535 reviews197 followers
December 16, 2021
#ThrowbackThursday - Back in the '90s, I used to write comic book reviews for the website of a now-defunct comic book retailer called Rockem Sockem Comics. (Collect them all!)

From the August 1998 edition with a theme of "Reprinted and Repackaged":


I'm feeling nostalgic, folks. Howzabout a few trips down memory lane this month?

When I was a young kid buying comics off the spinner rack at the my small town drug store or the magazine rack at the county seat's big grocery store, missing an issue of ARCHIE, RICHIE RICH or SUPERMAN was a tragedy. There were no comic stores with back issue bins in Shullsburg, Wisconsin. And heck, the only other comic book collector in town bought only those trashy Marvel titles, such as X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR, which I snubbed. (Hey, I was ignorant of the concepts of appreciation in value and comic book price guides. Give me a break!) If Jackson's Drug Store or Dick's Supermarket didn't get a particular comic, this little farm boy was plain outta luck.

Nowadays, the comics collector has a multitude of solutions available to him. Somewhere in the midst of all the back issue bins, comic conventions, classified ads, mail order companies, fan clubs, and distributor restocking systems, a missing comic book is sure to turn up with a little effort . . . even for little snot-nosed nerds living on isolated Wisconsin dairy farms. As a grown-up, snot-nosed nerd living in isolation in Colorado, I still agonize over a missing issue of a beloved comic book series, but now I'm flexible enough to consider the one solution that is becoming more and more common and, therefore, much easier to obtain. For those willing to bypass first-edition, serialized comics, the Golden Age of publisher reprinting and repackaging is upon us.


THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH (White Wolf Publishing/Borealis)

There's this kid, y'see. And he had this really awesome bowl of goldfish. And he wouldn't take nothing in trade for 'em. Not Transformers. Not baseball cards or books. Not a punching bag. Not a penny whistle. Not a spaceship, puppet or clown doll. And I really wanted the goldfish, see. So that really only left Dad to, y'know, swap.

I run this argument through my mind, trying to imagine if it might somehow have convinced my mom of the necessity of such a transaction. Like the mother in THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH, I'm pretty sure my mom would have sent me out the door with the goldfish and the directive to get my father back. Plus, she probably would have thrown in a quick swat on the backside.

The oddball premise and fiendishly clever writing make THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH an amusing diversion. The story follows the travails of a young boy as he tries to track down his father after an ill-considered swap for the pair of goldfish. To the boy's amazement, Dad is an extremely popular trading chit, and more than one exchange will have to be undone before his quest will be fulfilled. Writer Neil Gaiman turns to the field of children's literature in THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH and produces a quirky script that energizes this most unusual picture book.

Dave McKean's scratchy and abstract multi-media artwork is an intriguing departure from traditional children's book illustration, but is not necessarily an improvement. McKean decides to forego cute-and-cuddly or staidly-generic illustrative styles in favor of a primitive linework and collage method that -- for the most part -- perfectly supports the oddball nature of the story. However, McKean's bizarre coloring choices, awkward lettering, and frequent photographic overlays result in muddled messes slightly more often than they produce breathtakingly stark and beautiful tableaus.

Gaiman and McKean are best known for their collaboration on DC Comics' SANDMAN, which Gaiman wrote and for which McKean provided the covers. Lesser known are their pairings on three so-so graphic novels for which McKean provided full illustration: the chilling VIOLENT CASES (Titan Books and Kitchen Sink Press), the forgettable MR. PUNCH (DC Comics/Vertigo), and the insufferably artsy-fartsy SIGNAL TO NOISE (Dark Horse Comics/VG Graphics). Whenever these two men work together, they seem to push each other to the abstracted extremes of art and writing. These experiments are always intriguing, but, as I said above, they are not necessarily improvements over traditional storytelling. Just different.

While I would normally give two such gifted creators an "A" for effort and originality, I'm really ticked off by the over-priced packaging of such a trivial tale. This project is basically a goofy antic that got out of control. It's a couple of wild-and-crazy comic creators, renown for the maturity of their work, having a lark producing a children's picture book. Then the publisher thumbs his nose at everyone and sticks a price tag that puts the book out of the budget range of most parents and children, knowing that the main audience will be comic book buyers anyhow. Literally, THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH in both hardcover and trade paperback, is about 50% more expensive than comparable children's books from other publishers. To protest and compensate, I'm cutting my grade in half. Now who's thumbing his nose?

Grade: C
Profile Image for Rana Heshmati.
528 reviews773 followers
November 20, 2022
ازین داستان‌های ترسناکی که عمرا برای بچه‌ها بخونمش :)) نیل گیمن عزیزم. چرا آخه؟
و تصویرسازیش هم خیلی شلوغ و آزاردهنده بود. شایدم تقصیر چاپ فارسیش بود، با اون انتخاب فونت و شلوغ و شلوغ و شلوغ‌تر کردنش.
اما در هر صورت، اشاره به اینکه آدم دلش می‌خواد بابایی که همه‌ش سرش تو روزنامه‌ست و به تو توجه نمی‌کنه رو با دوتا ماهی عوض کنی، جالب و غمگین بود :))
Profile Image for Airiz.
248 reviews108 followers
July 4, 2011
This is a very crazy read…kind of like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but simpler and madder in a this-is-from-a-child’s-perspective kind of way. The title says it all actually, when a boy seeks for something to trade for his friend Nathan’s two goldfish. Nathan rejects everything that the boy offers until the latter sets his eyes upon his dad. Nathan agrees, and the fun begins.

At first I’m not sure if I like this or not, because it’s absurd—and that’s saying something because I’m all for the oddball stuff. I’m no stranger to Gaiman’s works, even the other books he penned for children (Coraline and The Graveyard Book). I think this is his first work where he actually explores the natural weirdness of a kid’s thoughts. I don’t know how he does this, but it’s like he wormed his way into a kid’s brain and sat there, jotting down all the ideas that float past him until he builds up a whole story.

If I were a child and I were to read this, I bet I’d really enjoy it. But what I really liked about it is that it may slightly strike a chord with anyone who’s been a part of a typical family—you know, if you experienced petty sibling fights and noticed how your parents are sometimes oblivious to the *universe* haha. It’s all weird and cute.
Once again, Dave McKean wows me with his artwork. He’s simply amazing. I loved how the fonts (or are the writings actually hand-written?) are done in a kid’s chicken scrawl of penmanship. It adds to the adorableness.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
December 10, 2020
The title says it all.

Review to come.

Audiobook Comments
Okay, I can't be the only one who thinks it's absolutely hilarious that this 40-page picture book has an audiobook. Because it does. And it's read by Neil Gaiman (who is a superb reader, by the way).

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Tanja.
261 reviews17 followers
January 18, 2021
I loved this silly little book. It’s short, funny, childish, perfect.
The idea of swapping a not very interesting Dad for two goldfish might seem absolutely absurd to an adult, but it’s perfectly normal and makes all the sense in the world to a kid.
I love how Gaiman just casually inserts Queen of Melanesia in his books.
Dave McKean’s artwork is beautiful.
Profile Image for Amy (Other Amy).
454 reviews89 followers
February 12, 2016
I bought this on a whim while browsing at a comic shop three or four years ago. The art is great (although the color tones are not my personal favorite); the story is just all right. The portrait of the big brother and his kid sister is fantastic kinds of real, but I guess I also expected the swapping thing to be really funny, and it was meh.

I had no idea until looking at this on Goodreads that Gaiman was the author. (I know, I know, but I really don't always pay attention to that crucial bit of information.) I guess I have to stop telling myself I haven't read any of his actual books now.
Profile Image for Cynda .
1,303 reviews148 followers
April 26, 2022
I listened to the audio book read by Neil Gaiman as I read this edition.

About the Narrator. In the audiobook and the storybook, the narrator uses his deadpan humor. The cruelties he inflicts on his sister and the swapping out of his dad are not done with malice, just with a bit of fun in the face of boredom.

About the Art. With tertiary colors toned with gray washed over strong lines indicate the deep darkness of some childhoods and the strength of conviction to be un-bored.

The book is marketed not young children. Perhaps better sold to adults remembering the darker moments of childhood.
Profile Image for Sedef.
373 reviews71 followers
November 20, 2021
Yeğenlerimle okumak için rastgele seçtiğimiz bir hikayeydi.
İnanılmaz güldüğümüz ve eğlendiğimiz bir okuma deneyimiydi.

Kitap bittiğinde 'Ben olsam babamı iki balığa takas etmem' şeklinde bir konsensus oluşturduk.

Teyzeliğimi yaptım, kendi mafya alemime geri dönüyorum.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
September 3, 2019
The young boy-narrator of this amusing picture-book from author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean, who have also collaborated on such titles as Coraline and The Wolves in the Walls , relates how he came to swap his newspaper-reading father for his friend Nathan's two goldfish. His younger sister, not unnaturally, predicts trouble, and sure enough, when the boy's mother comes home, he is made to take the goldfish back. Unfortunately, Nathan has since traded the father on, and boy and sister must set out on an ever-lengthening journey to retrieve him, tracing him through multiple swaps to multiple young people...

Apparently Gaiman made his children's book debut with The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, which put me strongly in mind of that folktale type in which the hero must make a series of exchanges, in order to obtain the desired object in the end. Classic Swedish author Elsa Beskow explored this idea (in a far, far sweeter way than here!) in her Pelle's New Suit . Despite the absurd premise, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed the story here, which, if you can suspend your disbelief, is an amusing tale indeed. McKean's artwork has his trademark creepy appeal, with a collage/mixed-media style that somehow works well with the story. The text here is quite extensive for a picture-book, so I would say that this one would work better for older, middle-grade readers. Recommended (of course!) to Neil Gaiman fans, and to anyone looking for more mature picture-books with a quirky, offbeat sense of humor.
Profile Image for Bekah.
432 reviews45 followers
January 9, 2016
"I could be a rock and roll star!" I said to my sister.

"You could be an idiot." My sister said to me.

My nose hurts from snorting so many times. This story is just so silly and I giggled the whole way through! It also reminded me a lot of my older brother and I. Especially the ending!
Profile Image for Amina (ⴰⵎⵉⵏⴰ).
1,277 reviews265 followers
May 19, 2016
funny short story about a kid who swapped his dad for two goldfish and the other kid swapped the same dad for an electric guitare and it went on, so the son had to bring everything back to get his dad home.
Profile Image for Bengu Akagul.
24 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2016
Neil Gaiman'ın garip fikirlerini çok seviyorum. Tamam yani 20 dakikada bitmiş olabilir, küçük bir kitap olabilir ama onu okumaya karşı olan özlemimi giderdi. Seviyoruz seni Gaiman.
Profile Image for Himanshu Karmacharya.
943 reviews105 followers
October 27, 2019
A cute and hilarious children's book. I listened to the audiobook voiced by Neil Gaiman, himself and it makes everything better, all thanks to his soothing voice.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,493 reviews88 followers
December 12, 2021
What fun...Dad is boring...he sits behind a newspaper and does not talk to anyone. So...why NOT swap him for two goldfish? Everything is great until Mom comes home. Understandably she is not thrilled. And little Sis is eager to tattle...Check the illustrations for her dilemma!

And so begins the journey to retrieve Dad.

Silly. One reviewer calls this "subversive". I agree! Sly and fun. I kept thinking of Shel Silverstein and "One Sister for Sale."
Profile Image for Sanja_Sanjalica.
751 reviews
January 8, 2020
The story and the note about how the story came about is really fun and entertaining. I can't say I'm a big fan of Dave McKean illustrations, but I can appreciate them as they are, fully artistic and dark. But that is just my personal preference, all in all, a good story to read.
Profile Image for Luann.
1,281 reviews117 followers
February 6, 2009
I wouldn't have thought that another book, even by the same author/illustrator team, could be as wacky and unique and different and interesting as The Wolves in the Walls, but Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean have proved me wrong! This book is just as wacky and unique and different and interesting - if not more so on all counts! AND this one was written quite a few years before The Wolves in the Walls.

I was very partial to the goldfish, and missed them when they were no longer part of the story. My favorite illustration shows the fish in their bowl in the foreground while we look at the mother in the background THROUGH the fishbowl.
Profile Image for Ronyell.
956 reviews320 followers
March 17, 2009
"The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" is a funny yet sarcastic little book from the creative mind of Neil Gaiman. It is about how a young boy sells his dad for two goldfish and when his mother finds out about what he has done, she orders him to go back and retrieve his father back.

Neil Gaiman has done a great job with making this story humorous and entertaining at the same time as the boy may seem a bit sadistic in selling his father and even tying up his sister at one point, but he has a good sense of humor as he does not realize the severity of this situation. Dave McKean's illustrations are scratchy and childish, especially of the image of the older brother looking larger than his sister (even though technically, he is older than his younger sister). I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves sly humor and is a fan of all Neil Gaiman's books.
Profile Image for Nancy Kotkin.
1,405 reviews17 followers
July 6, 2019
This is a humorous, though subversive, story. More child-appropriate than many of Neil Gaiman’s other children’s books. Though narrated in first-person POV from the older sibling’s perspective, the whole family is represented, and it is their interactions that layer this story and create a satisfying reading experience. The collage style illustrations are interesting, but not very child-friendly. And the hectic page layouts make the text rather difficult to read.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
July 1, 2013
Fun but a slight disappointment after the genius of the Wolves in the Walls. Similar ending, too. McKean's illustrations are top notch as usual.
Profile Image for حسناء.
Author 2 books192 followers
July 25, 2020
can tell now that it's risky to be a boring parent
Profile Image for Natasha Kareeva.
306 reviews10 followers
March 2, 2021
Как часто родители не замечают то что твориться в жизни детей... надеюсь я такой не буду. Пойду почитаю книжку...
Profile Image for Marilyn .
296 reviews22 followers
June 27, 2021
Before I get to rating & reviewing the 5 "adult level" books that are awaiting my Goodreads attention via listing, I am adding one more children's book to my GR shelf of reads - THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH by Neil Gaiman - because it will soon travel to Maryland to that little boy who loves to receive "surprise packages" from upstate NY! Our daughter, his god(dess)mother, will be putting together what will be a huge number of goodies we've each accumulated since his Easter gifts went his way in April. These goodies will travel as a "4th of July Fun Box" and will be mailed early this week. His mom loves to read to him, and we know he loves stories that make him laugh!

Of course, I had to read the book before sending it (having just scanned a few pages in Target before purchasing it & figuring I'd love it). And, while I don't list every kid-level book that I read on GR, this one is well worth a 5-star review - its enticing title and the gorgeous illustrations by Dave McKean had made expect a terrific story, and I was not disappointed! But get this: it seemed (to me) to be an hysterically funny scavenger hunt that takes the main character (and his little sister) on a journey to undo his not-so-well-thought-out trade! The story includes elements of sibling rivalry and of just how difficult it can get to undo such an un-thought-out deed. Another thing I loved about it is that Gaiman has managed to include quite a variety of nationalities, beliefs, races, and even income levels amongst the children's endeavors to find and return home with Dad. Also, I have to give a huge positive shout-out for artist McKean's gorgeous, colorful visual renditions of Gaiman's imagined story, making it even more hilarious and a joy to read. For a bonus, Gaiman also adds an Afterword in which he reveals how his own son inspired the story, what it took to make it happen, and that he considered Dave McKean's illustrations of this work to be "magical."

I highly recommend this book for any child, and adults would likely get laughs out of it too. I read it on Father's Day or perhaps the day afterward, believe it or not, which kind of added to the fun of it, regardless of the fact that no children were in the house. For me, it was honoring the child-within that likes to laugh and read a good book targeted for all ages (no matter what "read-to-level" or reader-level the publisher and the rest of the world gives it!). I hope some of you reading this review decides to also read Neil Gaiman's THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH and then perhaps to gift a copy (if you had purchased it) to a child you love, or at least to a library or an organization that distributes books to children! You'd be handing over, in my opinion, a 5-star story!
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 7 books172 followers
June 8, 2019
I first discovered The Day I Traded my Dad for Two Goldfish while perusing the section of Neil Gaiman Books on Scribd. (An excellent service by the way if you are a big reader) One of the goals I set for myself this year was to read Neil Gaiman's extensive catalog of work. A rather lofty and impossible goal for myself. At this point, I will be happy tackling some of the lesser-known stories. He is so prolific and spans so many different genre's it is a bit daunting. The audio version of this is only about an hour long. It is a short book, but at that hour, the story is engaging. Even without the visuals, it is a fun listen. Add in the visuals, and you have a different experience entirely.

The story is about a boy when after a dull morning with his dad, decides that it is in his best interest to swap up. His dad didn't do anything; there was no row between them. You can imagine this scenario with pretty much any preteen child. His dad is dull. And he reads the same newspaper in the same chair every day. Against his sister's good advice and wiser nature, the father is traded. The dad doesn't notice being shuffled around from child to child; he just happily continues to read. Once the boy begins to wonder if he had done the right thing by trading away his father, he begins to see the error in his way. Thus starts his and his sister's adventure in getting their parent back, much like the guy who started with a paperclip and traded up to a house.

The pleasant thing about this story and much of Gaiman's work is that it is not peachy. Gaiman never speaks or writes for children like they lack intelligence, spirit, guile, or dreams. Children lack the experience that comes from age; that's it. So he writes for them. I appreciate that as a reader, and it makes stories like this adventure so much more enjoyable. I recommend checking this story out, especially if you have access to the gorgeous visuals done by McKean. Again, it seems as if McKean adopts the same sort of philosophy that Gaiman has in regards to writing or in McKean's case illustrating for children, they are smart visuals, nuanced, artful, and beautiful. It is an excellent addition of Gaiman's already stunning catalog of work and worth the read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 774 reviews

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