Thursday, 7 March 2019

Free time and a fish

Lately, I have noticed that many titles of children's books answer to the parents's needs for raising a child, eg: how to eat your lunch, how to wash your hands before lunch, how much mummy loves you, etc. I realise the need for these titles and the convenience they offer but I'm wondering how compatible they are with the development of the children's interests and curiosity. How effective are they, actually, for cultivating  a child's imagination, language and spirit? 

This is why I liked  "This is a poem that heals Fish"  so much – it is an introduction to something as useless as poetry might be considered. In it, we follow a little boy as he tries to heal his friend - a red fish that feels sad and very bored. When he asks his mother what to do, she advises him to tell his friend a poem. But little Arthur doesn't know what a poem is, nor where to find one. He imagines it as some kind of a tangible object and so, he starts searching for it inside home and outside, in the neighbourhood.

I really loved the way Jean-Pierre Siméon gives the definition  of a poem. Being both lyrical and succinct, the French poet –novelist and playwright, too–  brings together the thoughts, feelings and experiences of many different people: a romantic bicycle mechanic, a realist  baker, an aged immigrant who waters his rhododendrons with devotion; Arthur's modern grandmother and his amateur poet grandfather. He even gives voice to an expressive canary named Aristophanes. Their words –simple answers to the same one question– shape a poem which magically gives joy to the little fish. Arthur is happy, too. 

This story helps young readers understand the concept of poetry, its cultural power and the abstract process that precedes writing and reading a poem. The book is so beautifully composed that even adults will be charmed. It has a spectacular impressionistic illustration with vibrant colours by Olivier Tallec and, also, the reputation that it is the new "Little Prince" – that's quite an exaggeration. However, this tale emits an equally dreamlike sense of simplicity and wisdom as the classic one does. 

''This is a poem that heals fish" is one of those books that give space and time to the children to explore themselves; their thoughts, their senses, their abilities, their choices. And to express their being, i.e. to communicate – contemplate, for example, write their own poem and read it, afterwards, to their friends or parents. Full of inspiration, unpretentious childishness and the necessary potions of humor and thoughtful pondering, this book really sets the foundations for a truly free spirit, i.e. an unprejudiced human being.

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