Trying, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Elise Hurst, (Dec. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5
Kobi Yamada is a master of the inspirational book for children. Every book carries an important, quiet message for further introspection, and the latest, Trying, may deliver one of the most essential lessons yet. A boy walks into a sculptor’s studio and asks, “How do you do that?” Surrounded by the sculptor’s creations, he tells the boy, “You simply do it”. The dialogue between sculptor and boy turns to a deeper discussion about fear of failure; frustration; the desire to give up, and the beauty of mistakes. The artwork is haunting, composed of gray, black and white sketchwork; shadows add depth and texture. Brief colorful accents draw the eye to moments: a cat observing; blue-gray accents carry the boy across a sea of dreams; greenery decorates the master sculptor’s “failures”. Trying is a story to spark discussion and introspection and is just a breathtaking work. The quiet storytelling speaks to the frustration of wanting and the sadness of self-defeat; so many will understand the boy’s wonder, combined with reticence: “I’d rather just watch. I can’t mess things up if I just watch”. Educators and caregivers will see themselves in the sculptor, who nudges the boy outside of his comfort zone with statements like, “…disappointment hurts. But failure is temporary, and in many ways, necessary. It shows us how something can’t be done, which means we are a little closer to finding out how it can”. Particularly meaningful as we all fight to get used to a new way of living, Trying speaks to every one of us.
I read this to a second grade class during a visit last week and was thrilled at the response. I saw smiles, I saw a few nods, and every student appeared entranced by the author’s work. Another great one from Yamada and illustrator Elise Hurst, Trying has a starred review from Kirkus.