Even when my son, Isaiah, was only fifteen months old, if we asked him to grab The Pout-Pout Fish, he’d swim through the ocean of children’s books and pull it out by its tail. The picture book is now anchored in our home as a household favorite as it towers over the rest of our library like the Titanic.
With ample rhyme and reason, The New York Times Bestseller The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen (illustrated by Dan Hanna) is certainly one to add to your child’s collection.
To be honest, I was hesitant to buy it. As a dad who writes about mental illness, I wasn’t convinced that a narrative about a fish “destined to be glum” would convey an appropriate message on how to handle emotion. In parenthood, there has to be some acknowledgment that a child’s feeling of sadness is acceptable. And often a short picture book about how Mr. Fish turns his frown upside down isn’t the answer to preexisting conditions like depression and anxiety.
Ultimately, however, I trusted the book reviews and I’m glad I did. The Pout-Pout Fish doesn’t teach the suppression of emotions as much as it encourages the redirection of energy and attitude. Throughout the book, Mr. Fish is so focused on his own misery that he is unable to fully recognize the gift he has in two swollen lips. He learns in the end that he is a kiss-kiss fish, taking his supposed weakness and using it as a strength in loving others. At the turning point in the book, it reads:
“‘My friends,’ says Mr. Fish,
‘I should have known it all along.
I thought that I was pouty,
But it turns out I was wrong.
I’m a kiss-kiss fish
With a kiss-kiss face.'”
Overall, I give The Pout-Pout Fish two fins up. Dan Hanna’s illustration, the use of literary elements, the narrative, and the moral all come together perfectly to make a staple book worth having in your child’s library.
Plus, if your kid is anything like mine, they’ll absolutely love it and you’ll even get a few extra smooches at the end of the book.