Monday, April 10, 2017

CATCHING A STORY FISH by Janice N. Harrington for Poetry Month and Diversity Monday

Sorry for my absence but I've been dealing with family issues and health issues, as well as working on revisions for the Advanced Novels in Verse workshop I'll be attending at Highlights in June.

Welcome to another Diversity Monday. It's also Poetry Month, so I'm celebrating both at once with this lovely book. Thanks to a librarian friend from the 2016 Novels in Verse Workshop for introducing me to this one.




Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington (September 2016, Wordsong, 224 pages, ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Keet knows the only good thing about moving away from her Alabama home is that she'll live near her beloved grandfather. When Keet starts school, it's even worse than she expected, as the kids tease her about her southern accent. Now Keet, who can "talk the whiskers off a catfish," doesn't want to open her mouth. Slowly, though, while fishing with her grandfather, she learns the art of listening. Gradually, she makes her first new friend. But just as she's beginning to settle in, her grandfather has a stroke, and even though he's still nearby, he suddenly feels ever-so-far-away. Keet is determined to reel him back to her by telling him stories; in the process she finds her voice and her grandfather again. This lyrical and deeply emotional novel-in-verse celebrates the power of story and of finding one's individual voice.

Why I recommend it: This is gorgeous. A warm and moving celebration of poetry, words, and voice. There's a compelling story here, told with plenty of humor and compassion, as Keet adjusts to her new life. But the book is also a word-feast, using many different forms of poetry. Concrete poetry, haiku, haibun, narrative poems, and even the difficult-to-write forms of pantoum (repeats the second and fourth line of each quatrain as the first and third line of the next) and contrapuntal, which can be read in three ways (the left column one poem, the right column another poem and when read together, left to right, there's a third poem!). A poetry glossary at the back explains it all.

Favorite lines (from JUST THE RIGHT SPOT, p. 39):   

                            Grandpa knows my tongue
                            is wiggly as a wiggle-worm
                            and quick as a mosquito
                            so wherever we look, he says, "Shhhhh.
                            Shhhh. The fish will hear you."


Bonus: Perfect for classroom lessons on different forms of poetry.


16 comments:

  1. I read this rather quickly when it came out, and while I liked the poetry, I didn't think much of the storyline, but I am now planning on rereading it soon, thanks to your thoughts about it.

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    1. Hope you will give it another chance, Alex.

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  2. Welcome back! This one sounds heartfelt and would make a great read aloud. I'll be tracking it down.

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    1. It's lovely, Greg. In fact, I didn't give it away because I want to study it thoroughly.

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  3. Glad you're feeling better, Joanne. And how awesome that you're going to the workshop. This sounds like a beautifully written story.

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    1. It's an ongoing (but minor) health issue, Natalie, but thanks. And I'm really looking forward to going back to Highlights!

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  4. I love intergenerational stories. Sounds like a great story about a girl finding her voice. I love it even more knowing it is free verse. It sounds like a beautiful read.

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  5. I'm sorry to hear about your family and health issues. I hope everything is getting better! And the Highlights workshop sounds wonderful--I hope you will share about it when you come back. This sounds like a beautiful book. It's a great premise, and I also like how it showcases all these poetry forms. I didn't know what a pantoum was! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jenni. I'll be sure to write about my experiences this time around at Highlights in June -- my Highlights post last year got more page views than every post but one in seven years of blogging!

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  6. I'm sorry to hear about your issues. Hang in there. Things will get better. I'm so glad you told me about this book. I hadn't heard of it and really want to read it. I had never heard of contrapuntal poems. Pantoum is one of my favorite forms. I can't wait to get to this one.

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    1. Thanks, Rosi. I wasn't familiar with either contrapuntal or pantoum!

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  7. I love poetry, but I'm always hesitant about novels in verse, because they don't always work; the poetry can be more of a gimmick. This sounds like the poems are integral to the plot and theme and character.

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  8. This is the thoughtful commentary CATCHING A STORY FISH by Janice N. Harrington deserves, Joanne.
    Healing thoughts for the health & family glitches. When these things come along they happen in multiples, eh? PLUS, very excited for your return to the Wonder World of Highlights Foundation. I will always treasure that I met your writing & you there.

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    1. Jan, you are so sweet! It was such an honor meeting you there and getting to know you and your writing.

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