For a lot of children, art is unnecessarily hard, mainly due to criticism and assessment from their teachers. Young kids are turned away from creativity because they are focused on a “right” or “wrong” way of doing things. Ish took on the bold challenge of addressing this negative stigma by proposing the idea that art can be messy and abstract but still be “right”, as long as it is what the artist wants it to be.
Ramon, an excited, interesting young boy, is discouraged by his failure to draw a vase the way it looks in real life. After throwing away many versions of his vase, he finds an incredible surprise that sends him on an “ish” journey. Everything can be ish! Writing, reading, and art can all be molded to what the creator wants it to be. Ramon teaches the all-important lesson of accepting your talents for what they are and learning to love what you create. In addition to addressing the topic of pride in your work, Ish, offers two different sibling relationships. We see a “too cool for school” older brother and an admiring younger sister, and it is up to Ramon to decide which sibling he allows to influence his art.
Ish is a fun and easy book to read, but it has so much to offer developing children who are becoming self-conscious of their talents and abilities. School is designed to build students up, but more times than not, it tears certain students down, especially in the art classroom. Ramon goes on a journey to learn to accept the ish-ness of his art, which makes his story relatable to students who are struggling with their own artistic and academic development. I think this book should be a staple in any classroom, and I know that I will use it in my future teaching.