Fish jam by Kylie Howarth

cover image

Five Mile Press, 2015. ISBN 9781499800982
(Age: 3-8 years) Toot the fish loves making noise. He swims through the sea 'scooba-dooba-diddly-dooo'-ing and 'beep-bop-bubbly-booo'-ing, but none of the other sea creatures want to play with him because they think he is too noisy. Toot is pretty downhearted. He can't stop making his loud, musical noises but he keeps being told to 'shhh' and 'shoo!' It isn't until Toot is unexpectedly swallowed by a huge blue whale that he finds a place where he fits right in - in the band living inside the whale's stomach!
This fun picture book uses simple, large illustrations and texture created through layered colours and printing. Bold writing gives precedence to the sounds being made by Toot and the other sea creatures, encouraging young children to make the sounds themselves. Toot himself is a funny looking fish which highlights the musical theme of the story. He is the colour of a brass instrument, has a horn for a nose, clarinet buttons on his back and a guitar tail. The illustrations focus on facial expressions and emotion as Toot becomes sadder and sadder as he is shushed and shooed by the other animals. We also see the anger of the great white sharks as they shoo away Toot with their stern eyes, sharp teeth and oversized 'SHOO!' The second-to-last page folds out to show the inside of the whale and the band of sea animals.
This book contains limited narration with only 6 sentences throughout. Told largely through illustrations, and with the aid of the dialogue and sounds made by the sea animals, this story is useful for encouraging inferential comprehension and prediction. Young children will also enjoy reading the story themselves using the illustrations and their own imagination.
The last page explains, in a simple sentence, the concept of scat singing, where nonsense syllables are used instead of words to sing a song. It encourages the reader to use their own voice as an instrument and make up their own sounds to make a song. In addition to its usefulness in text comprehension it would be great to use when teaching melody and in encouraging children to experiment with making music. The style of the writing and the illustrations invite children to become active participants, and is a perfect text for discussion and involvement.
Nicole Nelson