This is a children’s book in which a young boy is trying to find a poem to heal his fish. He asks many different people and objects about a poem to try and heal his fish and everyone gives him a different answer for what a poem is. The boy doubts he knows or can create a poem all on his own. In the end he learns that by asking questions and exploring the world around him, he’s taken bits and pieces of what he’s learned and he’s made them his own poem.
I thought this book was great for instilling in readers the idea that everyone has a poem inside him/her. Just because your poem may not be up to the standard that you feel constitutes a poem, it doesn’t make it any less of a poem.
It’s also a strong idea that poems are just our distillation of the world around us. A take on the idea that art imitates life and that each artist sees life in their unique way. This is a great message for kids as they sometimes feel they have to have someone else’s perspective in order to feel grown up. Ironically, once we do grow up we learn that having our own perspective and embracing our uniqueness is what makes us truly “grown up”.
In my classroom, I would use this book to introduce my unit on poetry. Even though I teach high school, I think this book is great not only for the message but the way in which it develops the message. We forget sometimes that we all like a good story and that just because you’re not a kid doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a good kids book. Plus teenagers are still partly kids and tapping into their more child-like nature and challenging them to think like adults is a great way for them to feel affirmed and challenged all at the same time.