Ish, A Fantastic Picture Book

By Carol Ekster

I read everything I can about children’s books – the SCBWI Bulletin, Children’s Writers Magazine, kidlit blogs, Publisher’s Weekly, etc., so I can’t remember where I first saw mention of Ish by Peter H. Reynolds, published by Candlewick Press. Though the book was published in 2004, I only learned of it within the last few months. Sometimes I think it most certainly takes time for a book’s beauty to travel about into the world of readers.

As with the many books I read about, I requested Ish from my local library. When I finished it, I immediately read it again. It was brilliant. I am a picture book author myself and marvel at another’s ability to deal with a topic in a creative way. This is the case with Peter H. Reynold’s book that he both wrote and illustrated.

Ramon loves to draw, but when his older brother makes fun of his drawing, he crumples many a drawing, frustrated while trying to make them look “right.” When his sister uncrumples these papers and hangs them, she gives him the inspiration he needs to continue with his vision. Even though it doesn’t look exactly like a vase, “…it looks vase-ISH!” she exclaims. And this is when he begins to allow himself to think “ish-ly,” drawing wonderful creations in his journals with a “house-ish, boat-ish, sun-ish,” etc. You get the picture, right? He even does some “ish” writing, poem-ish work. Okay, this is a spoiler alert. It ends “And Ramon lived ishfully ever after.”  It’s just what we writers and illustrators need to hear. It’s okay to make art in our unique way.

I’d want to share this book with every child from preschool through fifth grade. The book offers another way to reinforce the concept of celebrating our individuality. Perhaps the book touched me so much because I’ve always felt that I march to my own drummer’s beat. But also, after teaching elementary school for 35 years, I believe it is imperative to impart this message to every child in order to foster self-acceptance and a happier society.  Reynold’s book does this with the perfect blend of illustration and words. I quote from Booklist’s starred review “Simplicity itself, like the dot in the title, this small book carries a big message.”

What picture books have blown you away? Please share below.

17 comments

  1. Oh, and there are soooo many PBs that blow me away! Bridget’s Beret and Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld are among those. There are too many PBs to mention, but I will also say that I also love The Smallest Gift of Christmas, also by Peter H. Reynolds!

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  2. Like you, and Kirsti, this is one of my absolute favs! I read this at the beginning of the year with my first graders, and all year long we refer to things as being “ish.” It makes the kids feel normal, and mistakes to be okay. It means they don’t have to be perfect, but to just gives things effort. I wanna be like Peter H. Reynolds when I grow up!

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  3. How come I’ve never heard of Ish? Thank you. I cannot wait to buy it and read it. Sounds timeless! A favorite of mine is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch and illustrations by Sheila McGraw.

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  4. “Exclamation Mark” by powerhouse duo Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is another of my few words, big impact favorites. Reynolds’ books are just so brilliant and simple – my favorite is “I’m Here.”

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  5. I’ve had this book in my personal collection for several years. Definitely a favorite! I also love “Plant a Kiss” & “The Dot,” & just added “Going Places” a couple of weeks ago. Each one has an important & thoughtful message. Peter H Reynolds is at the top of my list of contemporary children’s authors/illustrators for sure!

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  6. Ish is one of my favorites also! It’s a powerful example of how much you can say with just a few words and illustrations. I also adore Amy Reynald’s books, Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink…so much fun with a positive message to boot!

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