Sunday, January 22, 2012

A 6th Grader's Journey to "Ish" -How a Book Planted a Seed

I visited a school in New Jersey a few months ago and had the pleasure of meeting a 6th grade student named Sydney who had written an essay called, "Nobody’s Perfect" inspired by my book, Ish. I share this not only for her inspiring words of her own "journey to ish" -but because the inspiration was delayed. I love that a book can plant a "seed" and sprout when it is most needed.

Nobody is perfect

by Sydney Abraham

Nobody is perfect. 

 That is a fact. 

Not a scientifically proven fact, but more like a fact that, quite frankly, most people refuse to believe. People want to be perfect. It is human nature to want to be 100,000,004% perfect. 

I used to be like that. I would cry and scream and shout if I did something incorrectly. Everything had to be exactly accurate and correct. I would not settle for anything below amazing.

All that changed one day in first grade.

My first grade teacher read us a story called “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds. This book illustrates that being a little imperfect is okay. It also suggests that older brothers are pests, but who doesn’t know that already? 

In the story, a little boy draws a picture. His brother belittles his picture and says all sorts of mean things about it. The boy, Ramon, was very upset. Ramon’s sister comes and comforts him and tells him that his drawing is very good and that their brother was just trying to get on Ramon’s nerves. She said the drawing was fine- not perfect, but good enough. Ish.

When I first heard that story, it was just another story that my teacher read to us during story time. 

A couple weeks later, I was trying to perfect a picture that I was drawing.  It wasn’t turning out that way, and I was frustrated. I was not a happy camper. Then I remembered that book, “Ish”, that we had read in school. At that moment, and at many moments that would follow, I realized that was so important that it needed to be perfect. 
Settling for “Ish” was good enough for me.  

It was that day, not when we actually read the book, but when I discovered its true meaning, that really did change the way I look at life.  

To this day, whenever I try to do something perfect, I remember that one picture book that changed my outlook on pretty much everything that’s important in life.

I still try to do my very best every day, but I know nothing will ever be completely perfect. I now know that if you try to be perfect in everything you do, then you will never achieve anything. You will be too busy trying to perfect everything that you’ve ever done. Of course, everyone is a perfectionist in his or her own way. I will not settle for any grade below an A- or a B+. Some people will spend an hour trying to make the finishing touches on a picture they drew for fun. Others spend endless amounts of time trying to improve in a sport they love. 

For me, perfecting little things like these is okay, but I’d rather spend time improving, not perfecting, but improving, the bigger things in life. I believe that nothing in this universe is perfect, everything from the smallest molecule to the largest galaxy has its flaws. 

Nothing is perfect. 

It never has been, never will be. 

Everything is a little imperfect, “ish”, 
and that’s just fine by me."

Sydney reminds us of the true power of books -that the "aha" may not happen on that first read, or second or third. It may not happen for weeks or even years, but the seed is indeed planted -tucked deeply within - and may eventually take root, sprout and enlighten when it is most needed. 


Patricia T. said...

You couldn't ask for a better endorsement of your book. It changed a boy's life. That is so exhilerating! Better than any book review! -Patricia

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Wow! That's kind of exactly what you hope will happen when you write a book, isn't it? That you will truly touch at least one person's life. Great story. (And I love your book :))

Kristy said...

Beautiful story... Sydney is quite a talented writer. I agree that some seeds lie dormant underground for a long time. Like that notion that I will someday write a book. ;)

Keep being inspirational, friend.

jungha said...

hello, peter. I love story, mind, dream in your book. :))
This book changed my thinking of life, too. Your book has a quiet power and wonder..
I want a lot of children to plant a samll seed in their life. :)

Deb Lund said...

Peter, as a children's author, creativity coach, and teacher, I pack my copy of ISH to lots of gigs and venues. Thanks for always validating my passions and beliefs and for changing lives with your words and pictures.

DS said...


Kelly said...

I wish I realised this when I was Sydneys age... the quest for perfection can be paralysing. I often look at my little boys drawings with amazement. The imperfectness of them captures a charm that all my art had lost and I'm inspired by him! He's showing signs of being a perfectionist like me so I think I shall have to hunt out Ish to help him retain his creativity!

chrissie said...

What I love about this book is that thinking 'ish-ly' allowed Ramon to draw freely whereas after his brother laughed at him he felt constrained. Also one teacher I shared it with said she would use it for inspiring her children to respond to each other's work like Marisol did to Ramon, rather than to respond like Leon. Another wonderful Peter H. Reynolds for my collection.

Anonymous said...

This is a very wise young lady, and I can imagine how gratifying this was for you, Peter, in becoming aware of this profound, life-changing impact you have. I'm sure there are MANY more you may never hear about directly.