Ish

Cover

Written and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Candlewick Press, 2004

Ramon loved to draw.

The plot in a nutshell: A boy who loves drawing learns to draw from his heart.

Ramon draws all the time and one day, as he’s drawing a vase of flowers, his brother laughs at his drawing and asks him what it’s supposed to be. Ramon throws his drawing away and spends several months trying to get his drawings right. When he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough, he stops drawing. His sister picks up one of his crumpled up drawings and runs to her room. Ramon follows her and is surprised to see that her walls are covered in his discarded art. She points to the drawing of the flower vase and says it’s her favorite. When he tells her it doesn’t look like a vase, she says it’s vase-ish and it makes him see his art differently. He starts drawing again and does it more freely, without stressing about ‘getting it right.’ Then he starts drawing abstract art and even branches off into poetry. He enjoys the new freedom of expression without boundaries and lives his life ‘ishfully.’

This book is the second in what author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds calls his Creatrilogy, which started with The Dot, which became an instant favorite on my first read. In these books, Mr. Reynolds’ passion for encouragement and creativity shines brightly on every page. As he points out, it’s true that one simple act of meanness can thoroughly squash someone’s confidence so much that they give up on themselves but it’s also true that a little well-placed reinforcement can make everything okay again. I think this is especially true with children, who are just starting to explore their talents and the boundlessness of their own creative minds.

I hope someone is going to clean up all that flying paper.

I hope someone is going to clean up all that flying paper.

The illustrations here are done in watercolor, ink and tea, proving that Mr. Reynolds certainly doesn’t let anything limit him when he’s being creative. Ramon and his family are drawn in his usual line drawing style, without a lot of background detail and in a minimal palette of colors, although the colors seem to open up when Ramon finds his love of drawing again. I love that we see Ramon’s artwork step away from sketching objects to capturing emotions and then beyond. And we see that his contentment, confidence and ability to take risks are all growing in parallel, each one affecting the other. It’s a wonderful reminder of the importance of encouragement and freedom of expression.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when it comes to artistic expression, doing what feels right to you is more important than what looks right to others.

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