Perfect Picture Book Friday – Ish by Peter Reynolds

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Ish – written and illustrated by Peter H Reynolds

Published by Candlewick Press in 2004

Suitable for ages 3 upwards

Theme/Topic Confidence for young artists. Supportive family. Power of words, both negative and positive.

Opening ‘Ramon loves to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Brief Synopsis  Ramon draws with a carefree, passionate heart–until his older brother makes fun of one of his drawings, saying it looks nothing like the vase Ramon was sketching. Gutted, Ramon loses his muse, and begins crumpling up his future artistic endeavors. But one day he discovers there is someone who truly enjoys his work–his little sister declares that even if Ramon’s drawing doesn’t look like a perfect vase, it looks “vase-ish” and this opens the floodgates of artistic freedom for Ramon once more, spilling over into all his “-ish” drawings and poetry-ish writings. A great message for any young artist, of any medium.

Links to Resources I would kick off the year with this book and a discussion of daring to have an ish go at everything. It could be read it in conjunction with Peter Reynold’s Dot, which has a similar theme. From Peter’s website there is a page to spark creative ideas. And a great lesson plan around the book here.

Why I like this Book Not everyone does everything exactly the way another person would. That’s exactly what this book allows children to learn. It is all in the eye of the beholder and each of us are all a bit “ish”. It allows children to understand that they can be different, or differentish and to pursue that uniqueness. This book could be used the first day of class to set the expectation that you don’t expect all your students to think, learn or feel the same way about everything. This book will allow them to reflect on their different qualities and how it makes them unique and to just have a go at activities, even if they feel a little inadequate. Also it shows that for every person that brings you down, there’s someone to pick you right back up, and I think that’s a wonderful lesson for children to grasp. Their work, no matter how it looks, is valued, and they should be reminded of that often. I am a little art-phobic myself, but even I feel like I could create something ish after reading this!

This is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday on Susanna Leonard Hill’s Blog, and if you enjoyed this review, do check out other books and resources here.

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51 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Ish by Peter Reynolds

  1. I read this book awhile back and simply loved it. Since then, I’ve used the term “ish” on many occasions when perfection is simply unattainable. Great book for encouraging kids to keep trying.

  2. This book sounds adorable. *hankering for it* I’ll have to check it out or buy it. I think it sounds like a book that screams, “Buy me!”


  3. Heather says:

    I need to add this book to my ever growing list of “Picture Books I Want”, Perfect Picture Book Friday is going to kill my budget. I have seen so many kids decide they can’t draw because what they produce doesn’t look real or doesn’t perfectly match the assignment given in art class at school. This book is a great way to introduce the concept of subjectivity in art! Thanks for posting!

  4. Joanna says:

    Heather, art class was the only class I use to get a ‘tummy ache’ because of such a sense of inadequacy. I would have loved to have read this book then. It has application to so many areas of life!

    • Lori Mozdzierz says:

      I agree, Joanna, in that I too would have loved to have this book when I was younger! Your explanation of why you would read ISH speaks margins this book. Off to order it from the library momentarily-ish 😀

  5. Oh how I love this book Joanna. This and Dot, which brings me to tears when I read it. There is just nothing quite like a Peter Reynolds. Great choice!

  6. Joanna says:

    He is an author whose skill I aspire to, Julie!

  7. I loved your review of “Ish”, Joanna. It has such a simple, yet beautiful message. I just purchased a copy I found in a local used/new book store. It truly is a gem. You certainly captured its beauty. Great book for our PPB list.

  8. Lovely review. And I love the concept of “ish”. Wonderful! BTW I left a long reply to your nice comment on my blog. I don’t know if you get them by mail or not, so you might want to return and read it.

  9. Susanna says:

    What a wonderful concept for a book, and I love your thoughtful presentation of it! Great ideas for how to use it. As you say, we are all “ish” – and isn’t it better that way? What a boring place the world would be if we were all the same 🙂 Thanks for posting yet another memorable title for our list!

  10. Edi says:

    I just love that cover! It’s got to be one of the best I’ve seen in a long while.

  11. This seems like a good-“ish” book (hee hee)! It reminds me of how you can paint your trees purple-ish or any other color you want, they don’t have to be green! I’ll check this book out soon-ish!
    Erik 😉
    P.S. As you can see, I like the “ish” ending! 🙂

  12. Love the review of the book Joanna. I love that it reflects on ones uniqueness, not that we have to be perfect all the time. Even “ish” is better than nothing. What a beautiful message. Peter certainly knows his stuff! Thankyou Joanna.

  13. Loni Edwards says:

    Oh I can’t wait to read this book! I love Peter H. Reynold’s art and storytelling. His books are so full of wisdom.

    I love your suggestion in “Why I like this book” of reading to the class on the first day of school.

    Great review. Thank you, Joanna, for adding it to the list!

  14. Natalie says:

    What a cool book! I have never read it, so I will definitely have to check it out! Are you familiar with The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds? Scholastic has that one on DVD as well. 🙂 My son made me a huge stack of “dot,” drawings yesterday, one in just about every color. It’s funny because we haven’t watched that DVD in months, but the stories stick with them! Love it!

    • Joanna says:

      Natalie, I think Dot and Ish share a similar message and I love them both. This one doesn’t have a DVD to my knowledge.

  15. I haven’t read this yet. I like seeing how stories deal with the person who drags you down and the person who props you up. As adults, we often focus on the negative person.

  16. Joanna says:

    The page where Ramon follows his little sister into her room and discovers she has kept and uncrumpled all his drawings and hung them on her wall, is priceless.

  17. I love the concept of the “-ish”. Wonderful way to teach art. Will add it to my list!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this book. I was just talking to one of my student’s parents yesterday, and she was saying she was afraid to take her daughter to art lessons for fear that they’d tell her she was drawing wrong. I think I’ll share this with her.

    Also, what a wonderfully symbolic book for writers, or artists of any sort. Definitely a lesson to be learned and lived.

    • Joanna says:

      Laura, I am thrilled this book can be of immediate benefit to someone! Books can help children in so many wonderful ways.

      And, oh yes, it ca, be applied to us too. My first (and 2nd, and 3rd…) drafts are most definitely ish!

  19. Penny Klostermann says:

    I just added Ish to my list of books for my next library visit. Sounds great!

  20. This is one of my favorite books, not just my favorite Peter H. Reynolds book, but one of my favorites of all picture books. It so speaks to the child in me who felt so inadequate in art class, although I had loved to draw and create before I got to school. How I wish I’d had someone to give that “ish” message to me early in my life. As it is, a wonderful artist friend influenced me in my teen years, and got me quilting, and creating abstracts with oil pastels, and really unleashed the creative ish-ness that had been in me all along. I am forever grateful to her!

    Thank you, Joanna, for sharing this. It certainly deserves a place of honor on all bookshelves, and in PPBF!

  21. Joanna says:

    Beth, I know you are a huge fan of Peter and Ish. I really have a blockage when it comes to attempting any sort of drawing at all because of bad childhood memories… I do enjoy photography, though!

  22. Sandy Brehl says:

    I found you! And now have you bookmarked- did you know there is also a blog about a HS Joanna’s year in France?
    Happy to find Ish featured here. It reminded me of “The Dot”, his earlier work, and I haven’t featured them in my workshops recently. Thanks for the reminder about another incredible PB that transcends age.

    • Joanna says:

      Sandy, no, I hadn’t heard of this other blog and shall google toute de suite!

      I have been here 13 years and last year on my blog did an A-Z of facts I had learnt about the culture while here.

      Ish and Dot are very complimentary picture books!

  23. Joanna, this sounds like a “perfect” picture book for sure! Since it was published in 2004 I checked my online catalog thinking we might have it, but we don’t. Don’t know how we missed it, but I’ll be adding it for sure. Your synopsis is beautifully written. Thank you for this wonderful selection!

  24. Joanna says:

    I bet your library has DOT by Reynolds, though, Kelly? I am sure you will love ISH!

  25. I hadn’t come across this delightful-sounding beook before – I love the cover illustration, there’s so much freedom there. And -ish is good too. I will look out for it to share with my younger son especially, who would empathise with Ramon.

    I’ve just read your “About Me” page too and it made me chuckle – I’ve just visited another blog and so wanted to use an Italian phrase in a comment, that put it’s finger on exactly what I wanted to say! I’m so glad to be taking part in the Comments Challenge, which is definitely opening new windows in the kidlitosphere. Thank you for stopping by PaperTigers.

    • Joanna says:

      Glad you like the sound of Ish, Marjorie.

      Thanks for your return visit, and it’s a real pleasure to encounter another linguist and lover of multicultural books.

  26. Ish does sound very del-ish-ious!!!! Love it. Will look out for this book in our library. Like Marjorie mentioned, it’s the first time I’ve heard of this book.

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  28. MotherReader says:

    Oh, I love this book! Such a great message and delivered so well.

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  32. Thank you so much for this post, Joanna! I had a giant smile when this came up in my search because I know you from 12 x 12. I was searching as a teacher today, rather than a writer! I was looking for a lesson plan to go with this book! My first graders need to believe in their writing and drawing abilities more and this is perfect. Thanks!

    • Joanna says:

      Carrie, this comment makes me so happy. This is exactly the resource we want PPBF to be. Have you got your kids involved in Peter Reynold’s International Dot Day?

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