Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Catching a Storyfish


For fans of novels in verse like The Crossover or Out of the Dust, you need to take a look at this story of Katharen and her family as they move from Alabama to Illinois. Her nickname has always been Keet, short for parakeet because she is such a talker. But when the kids at her new school tease her about her Southern accent and call her "Bama Mouth," Keet becomes a very quiet girl. The poems show the changes she goes through as she tries to adjust and fit in, the first steps towards making a new friend, and her powerful relationship with her grandfather. Most of the verses are in Keet's voice, but some are also from the perspective of her neighbor and classmate, Allegra.

The tone of the poems ranges from the humorous to the heartbreaking. There is the 10-line list of "Things to Do with a Baby Brother" which has very funny suggestions. But there is also the fear that her grandfather will not recover from his illness and ever be the same again. In "Rainy Days," her mother tells her, "He told me once that his heart was an old tackle box and that you were the best thing in it." And in the poem that gives the books its title, Keet shares her dream of "catching my storyfish and telling a really good story that makes my grandpa smile again."

Author Janice N. Harrington captures so many of the authentic feelings that go with each scene - being the new kid, not fitting in because of an accent (or some other difference), the fear of losing a family member or never having the same relationship with them, the tentative moves of a blossoming friendship - they are all there. A poetry glossary explains the different types of poems used in the book and even names an example for readers to go back and look at again. This feature makes the book an excellent mentor text for a poetry unit.

Highly recommended for grades 3 - 7. I will warn that you may wind up teary-eyed at various points (I certainly did), but it is worth it to see this young storyteller working to rediscover her voice through all the changes she undergoes.

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