Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson

Tommy's Mommy's Fish

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish
Nancy Dingman Watson

Illustrated by Thomas Aldren Wingman Watson


Like many mothers with young children, the local library was a regular stop in our rotation of daytime activities. Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish caught our attention on one of those trips. It was on display and there was something that pulled us to this book. It had a great cover picture of a young boy on the beach, holding a fishing rod, dog at his side.

In this special story, Tommy lives with his family on the ocean beach and he wants to give his mother a birthday present, all from him. His older brother and sisters are busy making their own gifts for their mother. Cammie is making a bayberry candle, Caitlin is making beach-plum jelly and Peter is cutting a pile of locust logs to fit the fireplace. They let him help. “You can help me, and we can give it to her together,” Caitlin offers. Cammie and Peter make similar offers, but Tommy says no, “I wanted it to be a present all from me,” he tells us.

Tommy is determined to give his mother something special and decides to catch her a fish, “And it isn’t going to be any little old sand dabber or a funny-looking thing like a goosefish or a sea robin. It’s going to be a STRIPED BASS.”

Tommy stands at the surf with his pole and waits. Gulls pass, the sunlight fades, the moon makes a “bright golden path over the water.” Tommy knows that patience is best when he finally hooks a big fat silver bass, but who will win the battle in the surf?

My kids loved this picture of the fish. The artwork in this book is terrific!

tommy's fish
Little boys love pictures that are a little bit scary!

I love this book for a couple reasons. First, the story is just plain nice. I love family stories with dynamics between brothers and sisters. I love how these kids aren’t buying their mother anything, they are thinking of things to make, things that she will like. The second thing I like is the hard-to-explain, but very real way the book makes me feel, especially when Tommy faces the big fish. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I love Tommy’s narration of this moment.

So if you’re looking for a nice “old-school” kind of book, with a warm family feel, check this out, even if there aren’t any little ones around!

Nancy Dingman Watson
Nancy Dingman Watson

Nancy Dingman Watson (1933-2001) was an American author of more than 25 children’s books, novels and poetry books, including Blueberries Lavender, When Is Tomorrow and Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish, which was illustrated by her son and re-released in 1996.

Ms. Watson was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. She attended Wheaton College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College. She married Aldren Watson in 1941 and made a home in Putney, Vermont where she spent thirty years raising eight children. In the sixties, Ms. Watson wrote for the column “One Woman’s View.” She was a two-time finalist in the Allen Ginsburg poetry competition, and wrote an award-winning musical, Princess! Later in her life, she sailed across the Atlantic with her second husband, Dutch sailor Fokke Van Bekkum, in their 32-foot sailboat.

I was sorry to discover that Ms. Watson had died in a car accident in Truro, Massachusetts, the setting of this story. This was most certainly a special place for her.

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4 thoughts on “Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson

  1. Oh, another great one which I have not yet had the pleasure of sharing with my kids. I will have to look for this one as well! How do you ever find the time to read and post so prolifically? You amaze me!

  2. My aunt. Her best book in my opinion was “Annie’s Spending Spree”. A tale about a little girl who gets a dollar for her birthday. It’s how I learned to count money and how I taught my daughter to count money. The illustrations were by my uncle and look a lot like my cousins when they were young. You can still find used copies at Amazon…

  3. Reblogged this on Book Club Mom and commented:

    From the archives – one of my favorite children’s books. My kids are too big for this now, but I checked it out from the library this week anyway, just to read it again and look at the terrific illustrations by the author’s son. Look for this gem for your collection!

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