The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and and Reporting Authority (2013) define language features as ‘the features of language that support meaning’. An author chooses specific language features deliberately according to the audience the text is aimed at, the purpose of the text, and the mode or medium in which it is created. This post will discuss the use of illustrations, repetition, rhyme, rhythm and tone in Deborah Diesen’s book The pout-pout fish (2008).
The pout-pout fish tells the story of a fish named Mr Fish, who is always sad and pouting. Throughout the book, Mr Fish meets a number of other fish, who all try to cheer him up. He maintains his gloomy disposition until the last fish he meets gives him a kiss, at which point he decides that he is not sad any more, and is no longer a ‘pout-pout’ fish, but a ‘kiss-kiss’ fish. It is a heart-warming story with a great message for children about reaching out to make others happy. The pout-pout fish uses numerous language features to make the book enjoyable for children and encourage participation.
Illustrations: Illustrations support and enhance The pout-pout fish. Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, and Holliday (2010) suggest that pictures often provide the details of setting and characters even more so than the words. The opening line of The pout-pout fish provides the setting for the story – ‘deep in the water’ – however, the text of The pout-pout fish provides little more description of the setting. The colourful, entertaining illustrations are the main source of information for the setting, and invite readers in to the story.
Repetition: Another major language feature of The pout-pout fish is repetition. Winch et al (2010) note that the use of simple, repetitive text is good for young readers, and enhances the effectiveness of the text. In The pout-pout fish, the refrain
‘I’m a pout-pout fish,
with a pout-pout face,
so I spread the dreary-wearies
all over the place’
is repeated five times throughout the book. The repetition of these words enhances the text by engaging children and encouraging them to join in. Further, it increases children’s familiarity with the words, their sound and their spelling.
Rhyme: Another main language feature of The pout-pout fish is rhyme. For example, the story opens:
‘Deep in the water
where the fish hang out
lives a glum gloomy swimmer
with an ever-present pout’
The text consistently follows this ABCB rhyming pattern. This enhances the book by making it enjoyable for children, allowing them to experiment with words and sounds as they try to predict what will happen next that will fit with the rhyming pattern.
Tone and Rhythm: The illustrations, rhyming and repetition used in The pout-pout fish set a playful mood for the book. The rhyming also ensures quite a fast, upbeat rhythm. However, this tone and rhythm is altered by the use of the words ‘Blub, Bluuub, Bluuuuuuub’ after each refrain. The words ‘Blub, Bluuub, Bluuuuuub’ are written in large text, each time taking up a whole page of the book. The words and their presentation slow the pace of the text, and also accentuate the meaning of the text by creating a gloomy atmosphere. The slow pace and gloomy tone contrast with the rest of the book, and allow children time to reflect on Mr Fish’s glum disposition, providing opportunity for children to understand the emotion Mr Fish is feeling.
The pout-pout fish is a great example of the ways in which authors deliberately use language features to enhance their works. In The pout-pout fish, illustrations, repetition, rhyme, rhythm and tone have been used deliberately to provide children with joy and entertainment, and to encourage them to become engaged and participate in the story.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (May 2013). English: Foundation to year ten curriculum (Version.5.0). Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/English/Curriculum/F-10
Diesen, D. (2008). The pout-pout fish. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The pout-pout fish [Images]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-pout-pout-fish-deborah-diesen/prod9780374360962.html
Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.