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Summary: A young boy is concerned about his fish dying because the fish is bored. The boy's mother tells him to write a poem for the fish, and then goes to her tuba lesson. The boy looks around his house to figure out what a poem is. No luck. So he interviews neighbors and some neighborhood shopkeepers. Each has a different response to the question "What is a poem?" The boy has a hard time figuring out the meaning from all those responses, but then decides to use them. He writes a beautiful poem about what a poem is. The fish responds, in a bonding experience between the fish and the boy. This is a picture book that searches for and uses poetry to explain itself.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, playtime reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 8 to 10
Interest Level: 5 to 9
Reading Level: 2.7
Age of Child: Read with brothers, ages 2 and 4.
Young Reader Reaction: My boys enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They loved looking at the pictures and asked to read it several times.
Adult Reader Reaction: I didn't like it the first time I read it, but after several readings, I LOVED this book. Each time I found more meaning and value in the words AND the illustrations. I wish I had read this book in my college literature classes -- I would have understood poetry (reading it, interpreting it, understanding it, writing it) much, much better. The way the boy meanders through what others say about poetry, and then weaves it at the end, is just beautiful. Very elegant, yet eclectic enough to be poetic (not overly practical or dry).
The illustrations are wonderful, too! They complement the storyline, but have their own personality, too. For example, the fish's scales are letters. When a neighbor says that a poem is a song in a cage, the image is very "Salvador Dali," with a woman singing from a bird cage, with random objects in the background. was unimpressed on first reading, but after relaxing into the book, we discovered so many wonderful, whimsical and magical elements that just opened our minds to more.
Pros: The illustrations are fun and interesting and appealing to kids, but not nearly as much as a book filled with dinosaurs or ice cream or cars or trains. Be prepared to engage your kids when you want to read this book with them.
Cons: This is a mature theme that takes a very proactive parent to promote and guide children through the book.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. I think this is one of the most adult-friendly children's books I have read. I would consider it a work of art suitable as a gift even for an adult. This book makes you FEEL the definition of poetry. "This book is about poetry. Like a poem, you don't understand it until you've read it several times."