Written by: Deborah Diesen
Illustrated by: Dan Hanna
Age Range: 3 and up
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers
“The Pout-Pout Fish” is a tale about a fish initially believes it’s his destiny to be glum. Throughout the story he explains to other sea creatures that he doesn’t really have any choice in the matter.
Toward the end of the story, while feeling very down, the pout-pout fish gets kissed by a female kiss-kiss fish. The pout-pout fish ultimately changes his outlook on life and believes he is meant to be a kiss-kiss fish too.
What Worked For Me
For starters, the “Blub, Bluuuub, Bluuuuuub” text really made my kids laugh multiple times. That was fun.
The book mildly addresses the concept of depression. The pout-pout fish can’t just “get happy” like some of his friends. It would have been interesting to see the book explore this further.
I also liked the repeated refrain of the pout-pout fish explaining why he is the way he is (even though he’s wrong). It’s important for kids to talk about how they feel to others, and the pout-pout fish did demonstrate what it can look like to do that.
The rhyming is excellent in this book. It really bothers me when the prose and rhythmic structure doesn’t align. Books often read as though they’re a little “off.” Happy to say this book does a wonderful job in that regard.
What Didn’t Work For Me
Consent. This book doesn’t teach your kids about consent, and it absolutely needs to. First, a fish comes and kisses the pout-pout fish without asking. Then the pout-pout fish seems to think he can go kissing anyone or anything he wants without consent. I really disliked this a lot. It sends the wrong message on so many levels.
Besides the consent issue, I thought the ending could have been stronger. The book missed the opportunity for the pout-pout fish to show his friends that he values them. To me, the book could have gone in a few different directions in the end, where one of the weakest outcomes was ultimately selected.
Here’s the metric: As a parent, when your child asks to read this book 3 or more nights in a row, how likely are you to want to run head first through a wall?
For some of the issues listed above and the book not holding the attention of my kids as well as other books, I wouldn’t want to re-read this book multiple nights in a row. As always, this is just my opinion of course.
The issue of consent in this book really stick with you. It’s really teaching the wrong behavior. I won’t be reading this book to my kids very often, if at all, because of that issue alone. The book has fun parts and the rhyming is extraordinary, but there are other books that held the interest of my kids better than this one.
But hey! Give it a read and let me know what you think!
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