A Teacher’s Guide to A Day with Bonefish Joe 

A Day with Bonefish Joe can be used in the classroom to encourage children to tell their own stories, talk about their aspirations and think about writing and illustrating a book.

What are you thinking about when you “fidget in your chair?”

In the opening page of the story “Flossie fidgeted in her chair, counting the minutes until school let out. In her mind she was already running across the street and down the pier unto the Harbour Island dock.”

In encouraging children to talk about why they are restless it might be possible to learn about what thoughts are in a child’s mind.” (fear of going home/wanting to play the piano/wanting to be playing baseball etc.)

Bonefish Joe is a real person and a legendary “celebrity” character.  For Flossie to “stop him” and ask him to take her fishing takes a child with “courage” and willing to risk being laughed at—which he does. 

It is clear that Flossie has been thinking about this situation and it is not just spontaneous.  Because it is a question and an activity that no other children talk about it is unique in her mind.

This presents an opportunity for children to talk about the person they would like to meet and how they would react if they did.

Bonefish Joe laughs at Flossie: “Bonefish Joe’s rugged frame shook with laughter, ‘Miss Flossie, take a little girl out bonefishin?’ Then her mother tells her he will never take her out: “Flossie, why would Bonefish Joe take a girl out bonefishing?” Finally, on the day when she is actually going fishing her girlfriends giggle: “Not knowing whether to believe her or not, they just giggled. Why would Flossie want to go fishing anyway?”

On all fronts she is being questioned and yet holds the belief that she will go bonefishing.  While girls fish, it is not usual for such a young girl to go out alone with a bonefishing guide.

Here is a lesson in staying with your “dream.” People will say “no” yet it is important not to give up. Ask the children if they have had a similar situation.

Many children’s illustrated books are clever, witty and use bold graphics to grab the attention of children. A Day with Bonefish Joe is an old-fashioned book. When Flossie confronts nature—and seeing for the first time a starfish and a giant sea turtle she is experiencing a new environment.

Here is an opportunity to talk about our fragile marine life and what it means to be in a quiet place without technology. There are no devices in this book. And Flossie is taken in by the experience of almost touching the sky and watching the sun dance across the water. This could be combined with a “science” lesson.

Flossie has never cast a fishing line so this is a completely new experience.  She is in a small boat far away from the island.  She expresses the thought, “What if the bonefish pulled her out of the boat?” yet it is in the context of a scenario of what could happen and not expressing fear.

Some children would be fearful of not only learning something new but of making a mistake.  Or they might be fearful of falling out of the boat. Here is an opportunity for the class to take about being brave and courageous.

One of the main messages in A Day with Bonefish Joe is the concept of loss—and the importance of memory. Flossie catches a silver bonefish that is immediately released back into the water.

“Flossie sat down and started thinking about what she would tell her friends.”

This can be used to talk about those things children may have lost—a favorite toy, something they wanted and couldn’t have. It isn’t the material object, it is the memory of the experience that is important and stays with an individual. Empathy can be discussed here.

The final page of A Day with Bonefish Joe has Flossie reflecting on her experience. She has satisfied her curiosity about why people go fishing with Joe and she has entered a new world—giving her much more to think about. She has expanded her horizons.

The imagination of a child is personal—children can be encouraged to talk about special experiences they have had. Perhaps illustrate these experiences.

The book has been designed so that each set of pages leaves the reader with a question and a reason to turn the page—a theatrical device. Children can be encourage to use this framework to shape their stories:

What is the arc of the narrative—first pages?

Who are the characters—lead and secondary?

What is the environment/cultural/setting—is it described or illustrated?

Dramatic moments—what gives the story drama and suspense?

What are the lessons the children are attempting to share with others?

How does the story end?

While this story can appeal to children from 5 years old to 8 year olds, the older children can be encouraged to study the illustrations and understand how they interact with the words/text and help them to think about creating a book. Encourage them to use the illustrations to show the landscape, the characters and the movement of the narrative.

A Day with Bonefish Joe
David R. Godine, Publisher
Elizabeth Howard:  Author
Diana Wege: Illustrator
ISBN:  978-I-56792-534-0

Elizabeth Howard
[email protected]
T:  212.831.7905
M:  917.692.8588