Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Title/Author: Ish/Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 28
ISBN 13: 978-1-84428-296-8

In a nutshell
To sum it up very simply, ish is about a boy named Ramon, who loved to draw, but was criticised and given harsh remarks by his brother, Leon. Ish is the sequel to The Dot.

What I liked
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the title, ‘Ish’. My first reaction was, ‘Ish’? As we know it, ‘ish’ means ‘almost like it’, or ‘not exactly’. For example, when you see yellow that is not really yellow, you say ‘yellow-ish’. In Malaysia, some of us use ‘ish’ to express ‘I can’t believe you did/said that’. So, instead of saying that, we say, ‘Ish ish ish…’

To find out what it meant in this story, I browsed the pages. Ahh…it’s that ‘ish’ that is ‘almost like it’ and not having to be ‘so perfect’. I believe there’s a perfectionist in everyone of us; the tendency to be as right or as perfect as possible. Perfectionists are very hard on themselves. There’s a student in my class (one of the many whom I love), who’s only 7 but is such a perfectionist. He writes ever so slowly, colours ever so carefully (making sure his colours stay within the lines) that he becomes so intense and quiet; everything becomes oblivious to him; hence he lacked team work.

What I liked also was the simple illustration. On each page, you’ll see very simple illustrations with no more than 2-3 colours, but became more colourful when Ramon felt more inspired.

It’s quite funny too seeing how Ramon let his ish drawings run wild – from tree-ish to afternoon-ish to sun-ish, even writing something poem-ish! Quite cute this one 😉

‘Ish’ teaches and reminds us not to be hard on ourselves – something very important we need to teach children these days; something we need to exemplify too. I liked this sentence most, “Thinking ish-ly allowed his ideas to flow freely”, which brings me to my next point.

What didn’t quite sit with me
In this story, Ramon’s brother, Leon, laughed at Ramon’s drawing. Ramon tried relentlessly after that, to make his drawings look right, but failed. In the end, he threw in the towel, in this case, his pencil, until he saw his sister’s room. On her bedroom walls were his drawings. His sister, Marisol, told him that she liked his vase drawing the most. When Ramon told her it was supposed to be a vase of flowers but didn’t look like one, his sister said, “Well, it looks vase-ISH!” and that the rest of his drawings all look “….ish”. With that, Ramon felt inspired.

Let me explain why am I not quite comfortable with it. I have a student whose handwriting is legible but not neat, not exactly the kind of writing most of us would like to read. And he’s aware of it, and tries at times to write neatly. If he were to read this story and ask me, ‘So teacher, does it means it’s ok for my writing to look -ish too?’ What do I say?

If I were to read this book or buy this book for a child, it’d be for someone who’s a perfectionist or strives hard to be perfect.

My verdict? Ish-ness and perfection aside, I enjoyed reading it overall, especially the simple illustration 🙂 4/5

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