Author: Deborah Diesen
Illustrator: Dan Hanna
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: 2017
Summary: In the newest Pout-Pout Fish book, our main character is playing with his friends on the playground when a big mean shark comes and bullies them. Throughout the story Pout-Pout Fish wonders if he is strong enough to stand up to the bully shark who is ruining their day. In the end, Pout-Pout fish realizes his voice is strong and when he confronts the shark, his friends join him in solidarity to make their playground safe and welcoming for all.
Literary elements at work in the story: The book has a wonderful rhythm and rhyme with a powerful refrain, “Shark acted badly. Being mean is wrong. But I’m just one fish! Am I really that strong?” The book is colorfully illustrated with familiar characters if one has read other books in the series.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This book is timeless and classic because it bypasses all socio-economic categories and focuses on something that all children have in common—the need to feel safe, the need to feel heard, and the struggle to be brave in the face of bullying which is (sadly) all too prevalent in their lives from a very early age.
Theological Conversation Partners: This book is great for a Sunday School or Children’s Time setting in worship. It can be used to talk about being children of God, made in God’s image and how we are called to respect one another. It could be used to talk about lifting one’s voice against injustice. Some scripture passages it may be paired with are 1 Corinthians 12 and a variety of gifts, or misuse of power—consider King David and his sins and temptations. It could also be utilized when talking about Acts and the disciples finding their voice and working together to spread the good news. Jesus’ interactions with the woman at the well or the parable of the Good Samaritan are all possibilities.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How does this book illustrate the difference between what is good behavior and what is bad behavior toward another person?
- What does the Bible tell us about being a bully?
- Does the Bible demonstrate for us how to stand up to injustice? In what ways?
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Loren Tate Mitchell for writing this week’s book review.