Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Rating: 5-ish stars

I had a pretty luxurious day.  I left the kids with the sitter for the morning and drove to my favorite stretch of the C&O Canal and ran 10ish warm miles by myself.  It was a gorgeous day, and I didn't miss my iPod--had enough to meditate on.  And then, instead of running errands like I should have, I drove myself to a coffee shop and sat down and read for an hourish, totally immersed in my book (the unbelievable Unbroken, if you are curious--yes, I actually read adult books!).

In between these totally indulgent activities I went to the bookstore--straight to the children's section--to buy this book.  When I read it to Lorelei and Ben the other night at bedtime I almost cried at the end.  It is such a beautiful book.  I'm a big fan of Reynolds' other book, The Dot, which I'll review sometime soon.  Like The Dot, Ish is a book about a boy's relationship with art, and also his relationship with perfection.  Um, I can relate.

He filled his journals with ish drawings.
The story:

Ramon delights in drawing "Anytime.  Anything.  Anywhere."  Then one day his brother peers over his shoulder at one of his drawings and mocks: "WHAT is THAT?"  Suddenly, Ramon is self-conscious at how imperfect his art is, and he starts drawing something, then disliking it, and then crumpling it up and throwing it away.  He does this for months until he finally decides he's done, and quits.  He crumples up his last piece of artwork and tosses it away.  His little sister reaches for it and, despite his protests, runs away with it.  He chases her, and then Ramon's yell turns into a gasp when he sees her room.

Taped to her walls are Ramon's pieces of art, carefully flattened and taped up.  She says that she likes this one the best, and points to a cup with flowers in it.  "It was supposed to be a vase," explains Ramon.  "It's vase-ish," she replies (I love how the youngest is the wisest).  Ramon ponders this.  And then agrees.  "Yes, it is vase-ish."

Accepting that his art is "ish" instead of needing to be perfect, Ramon "felt light and energized.  Thinking ish-ly allowed his ideas to flow freely.  He began to draw what he felt--loose lines.  Quickly springing out.  Without worry."  He once again delights in art, and even, on the last page, decides to savor a scene and moment instead of trying to capture it in one of his ish masterpieces.

I just love this book.  I guess I can relate to someone's words getting under my skin and affecting what I was doing and thinking and feeling.  Then someone looked at what I did and thought and felt and said, "You're brilliant!" and seemingly tacked up my Kate-ness to the wall and celebrated me.  Like Ramon, there was a shift in me that was good.  Hopefully we all can relate to someone applauding our efforts at the right time, when the praise has maximum impact.

I stumbled upon a website, Teaching Children Philosophy (and bookmarked it!  must return later when I have time to poke around there), that has a wonderful lesson plan or really just conversation-starter for this book.  Definitely worth checking out.

Oh, and here's an essay by a 6th grader who believes the book Ish changed her life.  Makes me smile.  Books are so important, and you never know how important they are until much later.


  1. He is fantastic! I just spent half an hour on his blog, had to pull myself away. Have you read his North Star? I've not...yet. Seems like a book I will have to add to my completely overstuffed shelf...

  2. Love the idea of "ish..." perfect for many of us. *hug*