The principal claim to success of this book is the magically colorful undersea world created by Scheffler.
So forget the title - think of this as a completely original picture book for kids, not as a modern replacement of an old fable.
These illustrations could make any story fly.
Following the planetary success of The Grufallo, the Donaldson/Scheffler partnership has consistently produced real gems.
Their style is unique, the content is quirky and their collaboration has almost created a picture book genre of its own.
Donaldson started her career in singing and songwriting, mainly for children’s television. Her breakthrough came when one of her television songs, A Squash and a Squeeze, was made into a book in 1993, with illustrations by the wonderful Axel Scheffler.
In fact, her real breakthrough came with The Gruffalo, again illustrated by Scheffler. Funilly enough, they work completely separately – he’s in London and she's in Glasgow.
As for Scheffler, he has become so successful that former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown invited him to design his annual Christmas card in 2006!
Admittedly, from my experience, not all books by the "duo fantasticus" have this unexplained extra "oomph" that makes them so special... but, The Fish Who Cried Wolf certainly has it.
Another thing that is so special about the Donaldson/Scheffler books - is the format.
Whever I read a Donaldson-Sheffler picture book, I feel as if I am showing my kids a perfectly sized portable movie screen!
My twins clearly adore it.
They love the crazy invented stories that Tiddler comes up with every day, when he arrives late to class.
And they pore over the charming details evident in Scheffler's underwater world.
(The Gruffalo fans should look carefully for a small treat from the illustrator - a "Gruffalo fish" makes a brief unanounced appearance in this book!)
Although all the other little fish are at school on time - every day, only Tiddler is late. Day in, day out.
After arriving late, each morning Tiddler provides a new more elaborate explanation - each more fantastic than the other - but no one believes Tiddler's stories. Tiddler does not even seem to care.
(Only one of Tiddler's little pals is on his side, although even he doesn't believe Tiddler's convoluted stories)
"I like Tiddler's story"
said little Johnny Dory.
And he told it to his granny,
who told it to a crab.
News of Tiddler's fantastic imaginary exploits spreads as gossip through the sea, while Tiddler seemingly enjoys inventing new, even crazier excuses.
Eventually a very frightened Tiddler finds his way home, by tracing his way backwards ... by following gossip about his tall tales.
Tiddler goes from creature to creature, asking them for the previous source of stories, until he finally reaches Granny Dory, the grandmother of his pal Johnny Dory.
Do not expect to find a modern Aesop's fable, as this is not really a mere modern adaptation of the boy who cried wolf.
Admittedly, the idea for The Fish Who Cried Wolf is based on the fable, but this story goes in completely different directions.
In fact, when I think of it - Little Johnny Dory had it right all along. This is Tiddler's story.
And in our family, we all like Tiddler's story!
The Fish Who Cried Wolf is available from bookstores in the US:
The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)
and other countries: