“The Birthday Fish” by Dan Yaccarino


I don’t even want to know how long it’s been since the last post. I could start this entry with trying to explain my long absence, but why would I bother? Most of you are either parents or writers, so you know everything about parent’s block, writer’s block, or what happens when they both hit at the same time. Besides, starting with explaining myself, I would run a risk of running out of my blogging time. So, let’s just start with “Hello, Everyone!”

Today’s post and the book are about birthdays, expectations, and making lists.

Last month in our family was definitely about all of the above. As our son was waiting for his birthday, he was making and updating his I’d-like-to-get list. When he came up with the whole list idea a couple of years ago before Christmas, I was a bit skeptical. I was worried that it would lead to mutual frustration. Our family (friends and Santa) will have a hard time finding things from his list, and he might feel disappointed when getting something else. And what about surprises? But list by list, I was getting more and more convinced that his input was actually quite helpful. The things he wanted were mostly inexpensive, useful, and in line with his interests, from markers to ‘speedy’ clothes, and books about dragons. Instead of throwing money away on what we thought he would enjoy, we’ve found a golden compromise.

But of course, the whole list system begs a question: is it always good to give children what they want? No, it is not. (That’s why we don’t have a video game system in the house yet) Not getting what they (and ourselves) want and dealing with it is a crucial life lesson. Not only does it teach our children patience, humility and perseverance, but it also teaches them flexibility. It broadens their horizons, exposes them to new experiences.  As parents, we should feel good about disappointing our children from time to time, even if it sounds like a paradox. 

In “The Birthday Fish”, one thing Cynthia always wanted was a pony. She kept putting it on her Christmas lists but she kept getting everything but ponies. She was hoping to get one for her birthday, but no, her parents thought a goldfish would be a better gift. Cynthia was frustrated. She was about to dump the golden present down the drain, when her fish suddenly spoke. She offered to make Cynthia’s wish come true in exchange for freedom. Cynthia didn’t hesitate. She wished for a pony.  Off to the lake they went.  But as they walked, something miraculous happened… 

In order to know WHAT happened and WHAT came back home with Cynthia, you have to read the book. I can’t spill all the beans, but I can tell you that whatever it was called Marigold.

A smart story with a lot of humor. Typical Yaccarino-style illustrations. A great book to add to anybody’s reading list.

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