A Bowl Full of Blah
Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (11/2022)
“A Bowl Full of Blah” by Terry Varner tells the story of a little boy named Zeke and the unexpected pet he wins at a county fair, which is a fish. You know, the kind you win at a ring-toss game. While a lot of children wish their first pet could be a puppy or kitten to call their own, this story explores what it would be like to have an unconventional pet.
Zeke is actually drawn to the goldfish in the bowl, and insists on playing a game. Zeke’s dad is surprised when the ring hits its intended target—the neck of a bottle, and the goldfish prize is handed over in a plastic bag with water. Zeke’s dad would rather his son not take the fish home, because, in his opinion, having a goldfish is kind of blah and unexciting. Zeke has his heart set on taking the fish home, however, so that’s what they do. The boy is eager to explain to his mother and sister how he won the fish. Even though the rest of the family isn’t keen on the new addition, Zeke’s parents nevertheless buy a goldfish bowl for it. Zeke names his fish Blah, and he and his friend Iggy trade cute banter about goldfish and having one for a pet.
Varner has readers stepping into the mind of children and pets, especially goldfish, and the author’s style and sense of humor will remind you of the unique and quirky thoughts of childhood and friendship. One of my favorite chapters is when Zeke takes Blah to school in a thermos to show everyone. And there is something deeper going on in the story later on, but I won’t give it away here; a good life lesson that children will soon learn in time, but well-explained through Zeke and Blah.
So many times parents and adults are reluctant to talk about life issues, especially end of life, but this little story can help show parents and children that it’s okay to talk about passing on. This book can be a cathartic way to discuss the passing of a pet or family member, and it would be a wonderful addition to a grief counselor’s office or children’s group.
By the time you reach the end of the story, you will realize that valuable life lessons can indeed be found in a seemingly simple children’s book. The illustrations go well with the narrative and are minimalistic but quite engaging. Zeke’s personality shines through, and his observations of people, places, and things around him are funny and cute. If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful in a children’s book, you have found it in “A Bowl Full of Blah” by Terry Varner.