I Am a Peaceful Goldfish
I Am a Peaceful Goldfish
Sometimes things go wrong.
I can’t calm down.
I have an idea!
I imagine I’m a peaceful goldfish.
I take a slow, big breath in.
Then I let out all my air
To make bubbles in my bowl.
Keeping one’s cool is a difficult skill for most people – especially those learning it for the first time. Yet it is a skill essential for success in life. I Am a Peaceful Goldfish tackles the teaching of this skill by introducing the practice of one calming down strategy – playful breathing.
Two children are frustrated! Things have gone wrong! Paint has spilled, the tail on a purple elephant stuffy has come off, and a crayon has been broken in half. The model airplane’s wings have snapped, the doll’s head has become detached, and the ice cream has fallen to the ground. As any parent knows, these are common problems for young children, and they are difficult to accept. The angry expression on the boy’s face and the screaming cry on the girl’s face are familiar in many households.
The boy, possibly the older of the two children, leads himself and the girl through the steps of visualization, taking a slow, big breath and then releasing the air. First, they pretend to be peaceful goldfish breathing out bubbles in the fishbowl. The girl catches on and imagines being a mighty elephant breathing in and then out, releasing the air in a soft trumpeting sound. The boy picks the next image – a rainbow pinwheel. Both stand and turn their arms around as their breath spins the pinwheel around. Then the boy picks a fluffy dandelion, and both imagine a big intake of breath and then sending off the seeds as the air is released. Each of these examples is playful and fun and easily attainable by the target audience.
After their final visualizations – a wind chime swinging on the branch of a tree, a gentle dragon releasing bright fire and a growing flower reaching to the sky – the boy and girl say,
I am calm.
I am calm, too.
The two return to their play!
This delightful explanation of how to calm oneself down is full of simple but age-appropriate illustrations. When the boy and girl are seen together, the background is plain white with lots of space above them. When they become what they imagine, the background becomes a calm and pleasing blue with lots of green, another naturally calming colour. Movement is shown by double ditto lines. The girl has large eyes and glasses in real life as well as in her imaginings, and the boy is always visualized as the larger of the two.
Then there is the cat which adds humor to the book. At the beginning of the book, when the two children are fretting over what went wrong, the cat is tantalized by the two goldfish in the bowl and frustrated when it cannot reach the bowl. It follows the children around, also seeming to practice the playful breathing. At the end, the cat is splayed out on a piece of paper, having gotten one of the goldfish, even if it’s just a drawing of it!
The language used in the book is also age-appropriate – simple, easy to understand sentences. The tone of the book is peaceful. In fact, one can imagine a parent pausing at each fanciful imagining and practicing with his or her child the calming technique before continuing to the next page. The book implies this invitation.
Overall, I Am a Peaceful Goldfish is a helpful aid for teaching the calm down strategy and in a way that is engaging.
Karina Wiebenga is a grade 4 educator in Burnaby, British Columbia.