Posted in picture books

Trying illustrates the beauty in the entire process

Trying, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Elise Hurst, (Dec. 2020, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5

Ages 5-8

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.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Maybe shows children their incredible potential

Maybe, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Gabriella Barouch, (Sept. 2019, Compendium), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-946-87375-0

Ages 3-7

A girl and her sidekick, a small pig, take readers on an introspective journey in Maybe. Opening with the question, “Have you ever wondered why you are here?”, Kobi Yamada inspires and encourages listeners to think about what each and every one of us is here to accomplish – to invent something? to you build things?- and embrace everything life has to offer; everything we set out to do, from a place of love and the desire to be a force for good. Speak for those who cannot. Shine a light into dark places. Kobi Yamada’s words will fill readers with a sense of purpose; strengthening them against failure by acknowledging that it isn’t how one falls down, it’s how they rise. Gabrielle Barouch’s artwork explores fantastic, surreal landscapes with a hold in the corporeal world: releasing a birdcage filled with glowing butterflies into the night; watering flowers while standing in them.

Maybe is a lovely book to look at, and a book that’s filled with potential, just waiting to share it with others. Share this with your readers; read this to your class visits; let the kids know that, as Kobi Yamada says, “You already have everything it takes to do big things”.


Posted in Preschool Reads

What Do You Do With a Chance? asks a big question

What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada/Illustrated by Mae Besom, (Feb. 2018, Compendium), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-943-20073-3

Recommended for readers 4-8

The writer/illustrator team behind What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? returns for a third book asking big questions to little readers. A young boy is offered a chance – a golden, flying opportunity – and pulls back, unsure of whether or not he should take it. He tries to reach for it again, but misses; he finally reaches within himself and finds the inner strength to reach for – and grab! – the chance; he soars on its wings, free.

What a great allegory for young readers (and not so young, to be honest)! The chance presents itself as a literal golden opportunity. The boy’s insecurity holds him back at first; when he tries again, he fails, and lets insecurity get the best of him. It’s only when he realizes that bravery comes from within that he’s able to go for the gold. It’s not about being afraid – it’s about rising above it: “It wasn’t that I was no longer afraid, but now my excitement was bigger than my fear”. He soars to new heights, ready for incredible new things. This is a story to inspire readers to take chances; to let excitement, rather than fear, push you forward. It just takes one chance to change everything.

The illustrations are largely brown and white, with the chance and the boy appearing in glowing color. When he seizes his chance, the scenery and his animal friends appear in color, illustrating a voyage into a new world.

What Do You Do With a Chance creates a thought-provoking and beautifully illustrated trilogy for young thinkers and readers. A must-have for shelves.