April Fish

by Vicky on April 25, 2011

For our Page Presents class on April Fools Day, I really wanted to do something related to the French tradition of Poisson d’Avril (literally “April Fish”).

So I started looking for a good “fish story.”  I found it in Kumak’s Fish: A Tall Tale from the Far North, by Michael Bania.

It’s a variation on the story of The Giant Turnip/Carrot/Potato/Sweet Potato, a favorite of storytellers everywhere.

I set up my puppet theatre next to the open door of our story closet to create a hiding place, and I covered everything with a white sheet and shimmery lavender fabric to represent snow and ice.  I played the part of Kumak, who declares, “It’s a good day for fish!”  Kumak’s Uncle Aglu is feeling too creaky to go along, but he lends his magic hooking stick to Kumak.  Everyone knows that Uncle Aglu, with his magic hooking stick, catches more fish than anyone else in the village.

Kids eagerly volunteered to play the parts of Kumak’s wife, his wife’s mother, and his children.  We all mimed putting on our anoraks, and pulling on our mukluks and big gloves.  Then I packed everyone into our pretend dogsled, and we drove to our fishing site and went to our respective fishing holes.  I had a model of Uncle Aglu’s hooking stick, and everyone else had a pretend hooking stick.  We all had to be very quiet and very patient so the fish wouldn’t know we were there.

Soon everyone in Kumak’s family had caught a fish, but Kumak hadn’t had a bite.  But he continued to fish, quietly and patiently (I had flung my line over the puppet theatre).

Everyone gasped when they saw my line go taut!  Stuart (in the Giant Fish costume) had hidden before everyone arrived, so it was a nice bit of magic.  In the story, Kumak is nearly pulled into the water, and his whole family (and eventually the whole village!) joins in the tug-of-war.

After some dramatic movement away from the fishing hole, and then almost getting pulled in, Kumak and the line of family and villagers, all holding on to each other and not letting go, pull up an identical line of fish all holding on to each other and not letting go.  In my April Fools version of this fish story, a gigantic Poisson d’Avril (wearing a Poisson d’Avril sash) gets hauled up at the end of the line of fish.

One of the grandmothers commented afterwards, “I can see that he is a very good catch!”

During our craft time, everyone cut out and decorated Poisson d’Avril fish and had a grand time sticking them on everyone’s backs!  (This is what the French do on April Fools Day, and what child would not relish this ancient trick?)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: