Jean-Pierre Siméon's THIS IS A POEM that heals fish
Illustrated by Olivier Tallec
Children's book review by Suzanne Edison.
A poetry book about poetry
“I’m bored” are two and a half of the most dreaded words a parent can hear. Right up next to the fear many students (English majors especially) have when someone asks, what is a poem? Put these two mutually terrifying ideas together and a raucous, wise, quirky book, not just for kids, is born.
THIS IS A POEM that heals fish is one of the most original books of poetry, about poetry, to emerge in literature, not only children’s literature, in the last 20 years.
Arthur’s pet fish Leon appears to Arthur to be dying of boredom. He asks his savvy, artist mother what to do. She considers this carefully and answers, “Hurry, give him a poem!” then leaves for her tuba lesson.
How does a poem heal a fish? Or anyone really? And so we enter the territory of what William Carlos Williams once famously wrote:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die every day
of what is found
“A poem!? But what is a poem?” Arthur wonders and sets out on a quest to find the answers.
He searches in cabinets, under the bed and then queries many friends. He asks the bicycle shop repairman who is always in love and the baker, Mrs. Round, and Mahmoud (who waters his rhododendron every morning—-because he is from a desert land. This is implied surreptiously, not stated and part of the joy I found in rereading this book).
All of the people Arthur asks have partial answers:
“A poem, Arthur is when you are in love and have the sky in your mouth.”
“…and it is hot like fresh bread. When you eat it, a little is always left over.”
“A poem is when you hear the heartbeat of a stone.”
After this last line. Arthur remembers his fish and worried, he rushes home. Leon is floating...but still alive. Arthur continues searching. He asks his bird (no bird brain) named Aristophanes. This sent me looking up Aristophanes. He is supposed to have said, “By words the mind is winged.”
This book is winged. Every page sings with color, wit and charm. The paintings are every bit as important as the text. It is a rare and happy marriage whose ending is so much greater than its parts.
Hurry, rush out and buy THIS IS A POEM that heals fish for any child or adult. You won’t be disappointed!
Read more of Suzanne's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.