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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Ramon loved to draw.
One day, Ramon was drawing a vase of flowers. His brother, Leon, leaned over his shoulder.
Leon burst out laughing. "WHAT is THAT?" he asked.
Ramon could not even answer. He just crumpled up the drawing and threw it across the room.
--Ish, Peter H. Reynolds, p. 1-7.
Ramon loves to draw; he always has. But one day, when his brother puts down his drawing of a vase, Ramon loses his love of drawing. He starts to become a perfectionist, judging his drawings the way his brother did, and hating them. He can't make anything look like he wants it to, and he just keeps throwing his drawings away.
Then Ramon catches his little sister taking one of his crumpled drawings away. He follows her, and finds his drawings plastered all over her room. Her favourite is his drawing of a vase, which she says is "vase-ish." Through his sister's eyes, Ramon is able to become free with his art again, and to love the "ish-ness" of his art, which is unique to him. He regains his happiness, and also learns to savor "ish" moments.
Reynolds (The Dot) has crafted an important book about accepting yourself and the way your creativity emerges. The story reminds readers that they can be creative in their own way, and that they don't have to be like everyone else. It lets readers know that art doesn't have to look realistic; that it's the feeling that it evokes in others that counts. And it gently tells readers to listen to themselves, and to do what makes them feel good--not what other people expect and want.
The free, loose ink drawings on white have small splashes of colour (watercolor and tea) that perfectly coincide with how Ramon is feeling--brighter and more color when he's happier and excited, and darker and fewer colors, even just one color, when he's feeling awful. Near the end of the book, as Ramon becomes excited about drawing again, the illustrations come most alive with many vibrant colors and swirls of ink. Reynolds' drawings themselves have a freeing "ish" quality that are full of emotion. The last spread, especially, is uplifting.
The text starts off with one sentence on the first page, three words with three images on the next, quickly drawing the reader into the story. The text and art build on each other, each adding something different to the whole. There are places the text tells instead of shows us what the characters are feeling and thinking, and at times it may feel slightly wordy, but overall the story flows nicely.
Ish is a feel-good book that lets us know we don't have to be perfect. A great read. Highly recommended.
-Added November 2006
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