I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love books that ask questions. A question immediately engages a child before you even start reading a book. Their minds spin…they want to know the answer. And in the case of Yamada and Besom’s beautiful book, What Do You Do With A Problem, finding the answer to that question is a journey of what-ifs that just about every child and adult can relate to. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Meet our nameless main character. The choice to represent the protagonist without a name easily allows a child to subconsciously slip their own name into the story. It’s told in the first person – again, all of these I statements will connect your little ones to the plot. From the first page, we see the also-unnamed problem manifested as a dark cloud above our young friend’s head. Who can’t relate to this imagery?…the shadowy, floating void that follows you no matter where you turn. The opening lines set the tone:
“I don’t know how it happened,What Do You Do With A Problem?
but one day I had a problem.
I really didn’t want it. I didn’t ask for it.
I really didn’t like it having a problem,
but there it was.”
Like any of us might do in a similar situation, our new friend tries to ask the problem questions. Nothing works. As the story progresses, the problem grows and starts to make its target worry. Some questions any child might ask are proffered:
“What if it swallows me up?”
“What if my problem sneaks up and gets me?
“What if it takes away all my things?”
The apparent lesson grows along side the growing problem. The more you worry about the problem, the bigger and bigger it gets.
Mae Besom perfectly illustrates the increasingly large problem, filled with wayward compass points, curious woodland creatures, rain clouds, and jagged tree branches.
Hiding doesn’t work. Avoiding it doesn’t work. Senselessly dwelling on it doesn’t work
What is our friend to do?
A ha! Face the problem and plan how do deal with it. And what is found inside is the revelation of the book. Inside the problem is an opportunity. The dark drawings of the previous pages are filled with the beautiful light of opportunity. The lesson of the book is revealed with our friend now dressed as an explorer, looking for more opportunities.
Kobi Yamada tells a wonderful story in a way that draws a child in. They’ll be able to see themselves in the book. Yamada cleverly leaves gender out of the picture, as does Besom, making it easy for any child to instantly relate to the main character.
The illustrations transition magically from dark and shadowy to bright and airy. Children will go on the journey and realize that self-regulation can be its own reward.
What Do You Do With A Problem? answers its own question with ease. Part of a whole series of books for young kids that ask questions, this transformational tale will quickly become a favorite! The book is currently available in hardcover from your favorite local bookseller or online.