If you were to start a sentence with the words “Deep in the water where the fish hang out…” in a room full of post-2008 parents, you’ll probably hear back an excited chorus of “...lives a glum gloomy swimmer with an ever-present pout“.
The fact that The Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen, has become a New York Time’s Bestseller, is totally unsurprising. The book tells the deceptively simple story of a gloomy fish and of his adventures with his friends, to whom he tries to explain why he is so gloomy, until… I’ll stop here, I don’t want to spoil the ending, after all, for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
This is a great book for very young children. There is a lot of repetition, and the rhythm rules the story from the very start.
You can read it one, two, ten times, and complement the reading with some fun activities for children:
– Imagine his friends. The Pout Pout fish has a lot of friends: a clam, an octopus, a jellyfish… what other sea creatures could he be friends with? A starfish? A lobster? A dolphin? A mermaid? A whale? Start from the smallest and move to the biggest, for example. Or, if the kids are a bit older, categorize them by type of marine organism: Plankton, Algae, Marine Invertebrates, Fish, Reptiles, Marine Mammals…
– Can you draw them? Fish and sea creatures are fun to draw, even for the most challenged artists out there. In the past, I’ve used the following tutorials for inspiration, and it doesn’t really bother me that my end products don’t quite end up looking the same:
– Make an origami ocean backdrop, using a blue cardboard and lots of origami fish, such as:
Easy Peasy and Fun’s Easy Origami Fish (warning for origami purists, it uses googly eyes)
– Ocean life. Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, and are home to a significant proportion of all life on Eearth. Take a few minutes to explore some of the secrets of marine environments with your charges.
- What is salt water? Water that has 35g of salt for every kilogram of water.
- What are the features that allow fish to live in the oceans? Gills for extracting oxygen for water, a swim bladder to rise or sink to different depths, scales for protection, fins for steering…
- How do marine mammals differ from land-based mammals? Streamlined bodies and fins for swimming, fat, kidneys that excrete salt…
– Explore the concept of happiness. The Pout Pout Fish spends a large chunk of the book explaining to his friends why he is unhappy. In today’s world, where happiness has become such a cultural obsession and characters in kids’ books and shows seem to sport huge smiles all the time, it is useful for kids to be exposed to characters who are not happy all the time, or not happy by default.
- Is the Pout Pout Fish happy?
- Is it okay for him not to be happy?
- What does it mean to be happy? Can you think of a time when you were happy?
- What happens, and how do we feel, when we are not happy? Can you think of a time when you were not happy?
- Do the Pout Pout Fish’s friends accept him as he is?
- What could the Pout Pout Fish do to help his friends better understand him?
– Anything else? The official Pout Pout Fish website features an activity kit to print out, including a memory game, a spot the differences game, and a Pout Pout Fish mask that are fun for younger children.
Note: There are other books in the series, as well, of which we’ve read two or three, though I have to admit we did not enjoy them half as much as the original.
Key English/Spanish vocabulary
Pout Pout fish – el pez Pucheros
clam – la almeja
deep – profundo
fish – el pez
gloomy – triste/ melancólico
to pout – hacer pucheros
squid – el calamar
swimmer – el nadador