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Review: Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
By Tamera Will Wissinger
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Houghton Mifflin

ISBN: 9780547820118
Grades 1-4
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*Best New Book*

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There are plenty of verse novels out there. Poetry books based around a theme are also common. Tamera Will Wissinger’s debut novel Gone Fishing strikes me as something more rare. It tells an engaging story while subtly educating the reader on a huge variety of poetic forms. It’s funny. It’s unique. But most of all, it’s one of the more flat out fun poetry-related books in recent memory.

Tomorrow’s a big day. Yes-siree, Sam and his dad are going fishing. The night crawlers have been collected. The tackle boxes are packed. But in the morning, there’s a little sister-sized surprise. Sam’s sibling Lucy wants to join in.

Okay, then, now it’s just us three.

But, Dad, it was just you and me

I’m sorry, Sam, us three today.

Let’s load and we’ll be on our way.

To Sam’s dismay, Lucy isn’t quite as serious as he is. Adding insult to injury, she’s catching all the fish. Just when Sam is at his lowest point, he finds a giant catfish on his line. He bests the fish, and Lucy’s right there with congratulations. Maybe fishing with your little sister isn’t so bad.

The sheer variety of poetic forms employed is impressive. You’ll find couplet, concrete, and free verse. There are quatrains, cinquains, and poems for three voices. Back matter includes tips and details about every type of poem featured. Writing with this sort of wide-ranging variation might sound a bit like showing off, but it all hangs together beautifully. Each poem acts as a tiny chapter advancing the story. You don’t always think of poetry books as a page turners, but Gone Fishing is just that.

Cordell’s black and white spot illustrations match the light mood of the text. With subtle skill he expresses the emotional ups and downs of the day.

Gone Fishing will make a great read aloud and Poetry Month tie-in, but really, a book of this quality makes for a great every month tie-in. Add it to your collection.

Review copy from the publisher.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Good to see you blogging this FINE book, Travis. This one is a first grade favorite, currently making the baggy book tour circuit in my classroom universe–rave reviews from my first grade readers.

  2. Looks like a winner…and in verse! Yay! OH, and one can never go wrong with Matthew Cordell’s illustrations! I certainly will add it to my collection :)

  3. Love novels in verse. I have a collection of them here: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2011/12/top-10-ya-middle-grade-novels-in-verse-from-readinasinglesitting/

    I’ll add this one with a link back if you don’t mind.