I'll admit it: when I first heard of an entire book devoted to a creature that is is, in America at least, often little more than the allergy-afflicted child's pet of choice, I was dubious. But a few gorgeous, full-color pages later, Kingyo: The Artistry of Japanese Goldfish, had me hooked. As it turns out, these brightly colored pond-dwellers, which developed through a natural mutation of gibel carp, are far more than meets the eye. In Japan, where they've been sought-after pets since their introduction from China in 1502 and bred since the 1800s, goldfish have become a symbol of the culture. There's a little bit of everything in this elegant, surprising book. Graphic designer Kazuya Takaoka and photographer Sachiko Kuru have compiled hundreds of images that show how influential the goldfish has been in Japanese art and design, appearing on everything from plates, cups and jewelry to children's toys. Readers will marvel at the variety of colors, and yes, even shapes, of the many different breeds depicted in Kingyo. (The one shown above is the Ava Demekin, or "Red Telescope Eyes.") As further proof of the power of the goldfish, Takaoka and Kuru have also included a poignant 1937 novella by Japanese author Kanoko Okamoto, "A Riot of Goldfish." This magical tale follows Mataichi, a young goldfish breeder hopelessly in love with the daughter of one of his patrons. Unable to gain her affections, he sets his sights on developing a fish that matches her beauty. Kingyo is sure to fascinate both aquarium aficionados and readers with an interest in things Asian.

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