Kid Lit Book Review: Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

After a busy few weeks finishing off my MA dissertation, I’ve finally submitted it (hurray!) and I have head space again to think about other things. Despite having neglected my book reviews, I have read some great books over the last few months, so over the coming weeks, I shall endeavour to catch up.

To kick things off, I’m starting with a picture book: Ish by Peter H. Reynolds.

Dominic (8): It’s good… ish! (haha!) It’s good that Ramon knows that nobody is perfect. 

In this book, Ramon loves to draw, but one day his big brother Leon looks over his shoulder, laughs out loud and asks, “What is THAT?!” I’m sure we’ve all been there, that moment, when someone else laughs at what you’re doing or tells you you’re rubbish, perhaps shattering your dreams – I know I have! Ramon keeps on drawing, but his brother’s laughter haunts him until one day, he puts down his pencil and says, “I’m done.”

As he does so, his little sister Marisol is watching him and when he grumpily snaps at her to go away, she grabs the nearest crumpled-up piece of paper off the floor and runs to her bedroom. Ramon follows her in hot pursuit but as he chases her into her room, he pulls up short: her bedroom walls are covered with his crumpled artwork. While he sees failed pictures that don’t look right, she sees art. Ramon comments, “that was SUPPOSED to be a vase of flowers” and Marisol replies, “Well, it looks vase-ISH”. As they look around the room together, Ramon starts to see his artwork in a whole new light. It gives him the inspiration to continue with ish drawings that he realises can incorporate ish feelings, that can be expressed through ish words and ish poems.

This is a book that we have shared a lot at home. When there is so much pressure on kids to get things right, I love that it reinforces the idea that our creations do not need to be perfect. The charm and importance of them often comes from them being “ish”.

It’s also been a great conversation starter about the effect our words can have on other people. We’ve talked about how Ramon feels after Leon laughs at him and how much influence and power Leon perhaps unwittingly holds. Leon may not even remember that day, but in Ramon’s mind, that was a critical moment.

And with the current spotlight on diversity in kids’ books, I also love that the protagonists have Hispanic names and darker skin tones in the illustrations. All in all, this is a great addition to our book shelf!




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