Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington. WordSong / Highlights, 2016
Katheren, called Keet by her family—short for Parakeet, because she never stops talking—loves telling stories. But when her African American family moves from Alabama to the north and she’s teased at her new school for her southern accent, she stops talking in class. She makes a new friend in Allegra, who lives next door and who Keet nicknames Allie-gator, and continues to tell stories at home, but remains quiet at school. When her grandpa has a stroke and seems lost, Keet tells him a story every day, willing him to come back. She misses him, and she needs his support, faced with the terror of giving a “Dream Day” oral report. “My hands are grasshoppers / my heart is a kangaroo / my lungs are too small / my throat is a desert / my tongue … / where’s my tongue?” After seven weeks of silence the words come pouring out. “My voice is all the places I’ve been / and all the stories I’ve heard. / It’s Grandpa, Grandma, Mama, Daddy, / and Nose. It’s my uncles, aunties, / and my hundred-hundred cousins.” Lovely characterizations, language, and word play propel a story about family, friendship, and the power of story to hold and express a heart. A poetry glossary defines the different types of poems that comprise the novel. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- “Knowing someone’s story is one way to put an end to a lot of trouble in the world.” (pg. 152). What does that quote mean to you?
- Relationships are very important in this story. How do they help Keet find her voice again?
- Use the Poetry Glossary on pg. 219 to find out more about different types of poetry. What type of poetry would you use to tell your story?