Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish!

Not Very Merry CoverThe Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen/Illustrated by Dan Hanna (Sept. 2015, Macmillan), $16.99, ISBN: 9780374355494

Recommended for ages 3-7

The grumpiest fish in the sea is back, and this time, he’s stressed out over holiday shopping. He’s so worried about finding the perfect gifts for all of his friends, that he’s missing the whole point of the h0liday season – it’s the thought that counts, after all! He learns that making handmade gifts that speak from the heart are the best gifts of all – a valuable lesson for kids and adults alike.

The kids in my library LOVE Pout-Pout Fish. When I first got here, there were two board books of the original story that were worn to the point of falling apart (they’ve been replaced). I can’t wait to bring this story out as the holiday storytimes get a little closer (I have to do Thanksgiving, after all!), with a fun craft afterwards that will show the kids how delighted their parents are with their own handmade gifts.

The book is written in rhyme, perfect for young audiences to follow along. Pout-Pout’s initial refrain about gift-giving: “A gift should be big, and a gift should be bright, and a gift should be perfect—guaranteed to bring delight! And a gift should have meaning, plus a bit of bling-zing, so I’ll shop till I drop for each just-right thing.” will resonate with grownups who work themselves into a state each and every holiday, and maybe give them the message to slow the heck down and enjoy the season.

How happy are we when our kids give us a handprint on a piece of construction paper, or a tissue paper flower? It’s a gift made for us, with love. And it goes beyond that – look at the success of Etsy, the site where crafters sell their handmade stuff. We want that personal touch, that connection. I knit for my friends and family, and the time and love that goes into my gifts means that anyone who gets something handknit from me is pretty amazing in my life. It’s a message that we seem to inch away from a little more every year; maybe the Pout-Pout Fish will help bring us back to that all-important message this holiday season.

Dan Hanna’s art is absolutely adorable. Pout-Pout has a big, gloomy pout as he rushes around trying to make everyone happy – but himself. Paired with Deborah Diesen’s rhyming text, kids will giggle and engage with this book right away. My toddler loved it!

Add The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish to your holiday libraries and get your winter crafts ready. But wait – you can also enter this Rafflecopter giveaway// for a chance to win your own copy!


Deborah Diesen - Author PhotoDeborah Diesen, Author

Since the first book, we’ve seen Mr. Fish go to school, learn to smile, face the dark, discover how to dream and play hide-and-seek. What do kids (and their parents) love most about the series?

I think one of the things that makes Mr. Fish an appealing character for many kids and parents is that kids and parents alike can identify with his experiences. Toddlers sometimes pout; so do adults! Preschoolers have things they’re scared of; so do adults! Kindergarteners get nervous about starting something new; so do adults! Mr. Fish’s experiences provide a way for kids and grown-ups to explore those issues together. In addition, the stories have rhyme, repetition, and wordplay, which are fun in a read-aloud book. And Dan Hanna’s illustrations! They’re fantastic. They truly bring the stories to life.

What do you hope young readers (ages 3-6) will learn from The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish? Is there a message here for grown-ups as well?
I hope that Mr. Fish’s latest tale will help children to realize that presents don’t need to be expensive or complicated or splashy. Simple, heartfelt presents that connect us to one another are the best gifts of all. A drawing; a craft project; time spent together; even just a smile! These sorts of gifts are the most cherished and the most enduring. It’s a lesson we grown-ups have to re-learn periodically as well.

Do you have any tips for parents of toddlers about the joy of giving presents, rather than just receiving them, this holiday season?
Kids love to give presents, and they especially love having an active role in the process of creating the presents. Try a craft idea or project that’s extremely simple and stress-free, and then let your child have at it with a minimum of help. The more messy, lopsided, and imperfect the results the better! Have fun with the process, and as you do you’ll create not just gifts but memories as well.

Dan Hanna, Illustrator

danhanna by jennifer beckwithThe items in the shop and the gifts Mr. Fish imagines in this story are so detailed and quirky. How did you come up with them? Did you have a specific inspiration?

For the imagined gifts, I drew on my own experience as a kid where I would dream up magnificent presents for my family and friends.  Eventually, as with Mr. Fish, I would have to confront reality and drastically scale back my plans.

The shop items are based on all the goofy stuff you can find on the shelves of some of the more interesting gift shops.

Of all the items that the Pout-Pout fish dreams up (robot, spaceship, submarine etc.), which one would you love to get this Christmas?

The Submarine!  When I was a kid there was an ad in the back of a comic book for a submarine.  The ad went something like this: “Deluxe Submarine!  Life Size!  Torpedo Tubes!  Absolutely NO Cardboard Parts!  Only $10!!

I saved up the money and sent away for it.   As I waited for it to be delivered my dreams were filled with visions of underwater adventure.  Eventually it arrived and sank my dreams into the abyss.  It was just a cardboard box with torpedo tubes made from toilet roll tubes.  It was even more depressing than the Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Glasses.

What do you think was your most valuable childhood experience?
Being bored.  I firmly believe that having enough free time to sit around and be bored is very important for the development of a healthy imagination.

What do you want the students to get out of your school visits?
That being a writer or illustrator is like being a wizard.  Your magic wand is a pencil.  Your potions are words and scribbles.  And the spells you cast will be the stories you write and the pictures you draw.  So pick up a pencil and make some magic happen!


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I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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