When my daughter was very young, I looked for books to read with her that, not only she would like, but that I would not mind reading to her 200 or more times. One of my favorite authors became Leo Lionni. His stories and lovely illustrations always have a deeper message as well. One of my favorite books of his is called, Fish Is Fish. In this tale, a small fish and tadpole are friends who live in a small pond. True to nature, the fish just gets bigger, while the tadpole begins to transform into a frog – and land dweller. The frog leaves to explore his new world, but after a time returns and begins to tell his friend about some of the wonders he has seen – birds, cows, people. Lionni shows how the fish imagines these things and in his fishy mind, everything looks like a fish. The birds are fish with wings. The people are upright fish with clothes who walk on their tail fins and… well, you can imagine how cows are transformed into fish-like critters. Later, the fish almost dies trying to leave the pond and follow his friend into this new world. (Spoiler: Of course the frog rescues him!)
- Each mind is unique. Most of us have the same basic hardware but what we know and learn is shaped by the unique cognitive strengths we were born with and the unique life experiences we have encountered.
- We see and hear, in part, what we expect to see and hear. Because we are unique, we each have a filter that selects information to take in and then colors that information with our unique past understandings.
- Development and even future success is better when we go “with the grain” of our unique strengths.
The title of the book tells the point of the story: “Fish Is Fish” and reminds me of a quote from Einstein that we use in many of our books and materials:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
We see it as our mission as parents and teachers to identify what is unique about each young mind we get to know and to nurture “fish” to be the best fish they can be (and “frogs,” the best frogs.)
We hope that you, too, will look at your own children and strive to find out and celebrate what is unique in each one.
Illustration by MC Escher – 1949