I am pleased to share with you today a very special book. I received a request to review “Timmy the Fish” from the illustrator, Alicia Mattern. Alicia shared with me her dedication to publish and spread the word about this book. You see, the author, Sean Kollman (as well as Alicia herself), were bullied relentlessly when they were growing up and as a result, together they wrote “Timmy the Fish” to share their experiences. Tragically, Sean died in a car accident in 2000 and did not live to see his book be published. Alicia has gone on to self-publish the book in 2007 and again in 2012 to help see his dream become a reality. Please see below for more about Sean and Alicia.
Author: Sean A. Kollman
Illustrator: Alicia Mattern
Year Published: 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Recommended Age: 3+
What it’s About: Timmy is a little perch living in a lake filled with a variety of fish. When Timmy goes to school, he is pushed and shoved around by some bigger and older fish. Timmy feels very sad until he meets the legendary Brutus, a Largemouth Bass, who befriends the little perch and teaches him the secret to standing up to bullies. Timmy learns that bullies are really cowards and that if he just “swims like a shark” they would soon leave him alone. Brave little Timmy returns to school and soon encounters the bullies once again. Read the book to find out what happens when Timmy bravely stands up to his tormentors.
My Thoughts: Little Timmy is an inspirational story about bullying, a common theme in schools in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere. What I love about the story is that it describes what bullying can look like (e.g., pushing and shoving) and it also describes the effects of bullying. Here is an example from the text:
“Timmy would get so sad that he would trail along behind the rest of the school with the older, slower fish.”
Importantly, the story contains the message that bullies are actually cowards and that (sometimes) it just takes the courage to stand up to the bullies to put an end to their bad behaviour. While this may be a bit simplistic, and in some cases, this may not have the desired effect, it is worth noting that the book is targeting young children. When children are younger, the responses to bullying behaviour look different than with older children when interventions by adults may sometimes be necessary. In that respect, this picture book about bullying is an appropriate resource for teaching young children about bullying and responding to bullies.
I think many children will relate to Timmy as a character. Timmy is smaller than the rest of the fish and goes to school, just like all the young fish in the lake. He does what he’s told and has a few friends, but there are some bigger and older fish that push him around and make him feel bad. This is a pretty accurate representation of what sometimes occurs in schoolyards. Timmy is then mentored by a larger, more experienced fish, Brutus. Again, this often is what happens in real life as well with Brutus perhaps being a parent, teacher, an older schoolmate, an aunt, uncle, or cousin who helps a child who is being bullied at school.
The illustrations by Alicia Mattern all take up a whole page and are bright and colourful. They all have a blue and brown background representing the water and the sand, and they include a variety of fish found in a lake in the foreground. Many of the pictures also feature “thought bubbles” to show what the fish are thinking. They are very kid-friendly. My only comment would be that there was not enough variety in the illustrations – they all featured the same background (full page) with the fish in different poses. That being said, I really liked the style of illustrations and thought that the “thought bubbles” were a nice touch!
My Bottom Line: Timmy the Fish features a wonderful story about bullying and having the courage to stand up to bullies. The book features a relatable main character, a strong positive message, and bright and engaging illustrations. My son and I both enjoyed the book and were able to have discussions about bullying based on what transpired in the story.
Who Would Like This Book? I would recommend this book in preschool and kindergarten classes, library story-time, and for parents with children aged 3 years and up who want to share a story and have a discussion about bullying.
Mom Rating: ★★★★☆
Mom Rating: ★★★★☆
* I was given this book free-of-charge by the illustrator in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own. *
About The Author and The Illustrator
The author, Sean Kollman, was born and raised in North Dakota. With a love for writing, he attended Jamestown College and graduated in 1998, majoring in English. Sean wrote a children’s book for a class assignement based on his own experiences growing up. Like many, he was picked on by his peers at an early age but met a few life-long friends when he started Junior High. One of them taught Sean not to be afraid of bullies and how to stand up for himself. Hence, “Brutus” was the basis for Timmy The Fish. Sean’s professor, a published author, liked his story so much that he suggested the Sean to find an illustrator and send it to publishers. Sean and Alicia worked on the book together for about two years but that tragically ended when he was involved in a fatal car accident.
The illustrator, Alicia Mattern, started drawing at the early age of 4. Her favorite cartoon character to draw was Garfield! Using that as her foundation, she drew many different cartoon characters growing up. Her older brother, who is also a talented artist, taught her shading techniques and two-point perspective as she got older. Art was her main course of study throughout high school and college and she was also a set designer for both drama departments. Alicia graduated Magna Cum Laude and College Fellow in Fine Arts (Studio Art Concentration) at Jamestown College, North Dakota, in 2001; Minors in Business Administration and Information Technology. Alicia has worked as a graphic artist since graduation and currently works for a small, family-owned sticker company in Omaha, Nebraska.
Furthermore, Alicia has recently worked with small production companies working as their special effects makeup artist and photo editor. She also works with photographers as a model and has walked the fashion runway.
For more information about Sean, Alicia, and Timmy the Fish, please visit Alicia’s website: http://www.aliciacmattern.com/childrens-books.html
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