What to do With an Idea?

What Do You Do with an Idea?

By Kobi Yamada (author) and Mae Besom (illustrator)

The Story: A little boy has an idea, but he has no clue what to do with it. Should he share it? Pretend it isn’t there? Whatever he does the idea will not go away, so the little boy gives the idea the attention and nurturing it demands and the idea grows, and grows, and grows until . . . it changes the world. The moral of the story: what do you do with an idea? You change the world.

What Wallace and I Think: This picturebook gave me goosebumps. The message that children’s ideas matter and have the potential to make a difference is powerful. The lesson that ideas must have work put into them if they are going to have the potential to make an impact is an important one for all of us. It is only through cultivating ideas that they can be born and turned into something real. For ideas to change the world, you need to develop and work on them first. These two lessons make this book one that needs to be read to children so they know their ideas matter, and that their ideas need to be cultivated.

The illustrator personifies the “idea” by illustrating it as an egg, which is a fantastic visual metaphor! The little egg follows the boy until he finally gets the attention he needs to grow. The egg grows larger and larger until it “cracks,” resulting in an illustration of colorful new city. Similarly, the egg/idea is the first thing to have color in the book; the little boy and the surrounding world is all pencil gray. As the egg/idea is nurtured the color slowly spreads until it finally explodes in the last page with a saturated, colorful city. Mae Besom’s illustrations are meaningful and beautiful, and add power to the message.

This book could be read to a varying age range from as young as toddlers. Though the metaphor may be out of the grasp of some young children, the illustrations would hold their attention. It could be used in classrooms to spark discussion, or be used to generally give someone/yourself encouragement.

So do you have an idea? Go and DO something with it, and maybe you’ll change the world!

Wednesday’s Wise Words

I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (1872) this week:

the boy should enclose and keep, as his life, the old child at the heart of him, and never let go. He must still, to be a right man, be his mother’s darling, and more his father’s pride, and more. The child is not meant to die, but to be forever fresh-born

To me, this means growing all the while keeping your childhood hopes, dreams, aspirations within your adult heart. It means to honor your child self, and to aspire to be someone your youngest self would be proud of. What does this beautiful quote from MacDonald mean to you?

Creating the Most Magnificent Thing: A Review of Ashley Spires’ Picturebook

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Kid Can Press 2014

The Story: A girl has a wonderful idea to make the most magnificent thing. She enlists the help of her best friend, who happens to be a dog, and gets to work trying to make her idea a reality. But translating her wonderful idea into what she pictured is hard, time consuming, and takes many trials and errors. Frustration builds until the girl explodes! Lucky her best friend has the perfect type of stress relief: taking him for a walk. The longer they walk, the more her frustration fades, until she’s refreshed and able to return to her project and finally produce her most magnificent thing.

What Wallace and I Think: This picturebook hit home for me. Whether it’s having an image in my mind that I struggle to put on paper just as I imagined, or translating an idea onto paper as eloquently as it seems in my head, turning an idea into a real thing is hard and rarely turns out just as I imagined it. This picturebook encourages perseverance, patience, and teaches the valuable lesson that creating something takes hard work.

What I found the most valuable piece of advice, something that has worked for me for years, is that sometimes you need to walk away from that idea for a while, gain perspective, and refresh your mind in order to come back stronger. This is a hard thing to do when you’re in the middle of something, and want to get it done (or at least if you’re like me and get a little obsessive about finishing something once you’ve started it).

Walking with Wallace

Walking with Wallace

Just like the unnamed girl, what usually works for me is taking Wallace for a walk, breathing in fresh air, playing in the dog parks, and just taking in nature. Then, without even trying, new ideas and thoughts float in. I have always figured out my best solutions and my greatest ideas when walking Wallace.

You’ve probably already guessed that one reason why I love this book is because it features a dog. And you would be right. The relationship between the girl and dog is great, and often times humorous. I also love how determined the girl is, and that her idea involves building something (girl power!) Especially powerful, are the models she makes before achieving her magnificent thing, the models she deems failures, are found to be useful to other people. Even “failures” have significance and a use. Mistakes are OK. Maybe even welcomed. And her final product is far from perfect, showing that being successful doesn’t mean perfection. Heavy stuff people. These lessons are not just valuable to children, but to us grown-ups too.

I recommend this magnificent book not only to be read to children, but to all my fellow perfectionists, creatives, builders, and dreamers. It would make a nice gift to someone starting out on any new venture, or to someone struggles to make their wonderful ideas into a reality.

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am not) Review

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) By Peter Brown

Little, Brown and Company 2014

The Story: Robert has a big problem at school. His teacher is a monster! She doesn’t appreciate his paper airplanes, his chatting in class, even the way he walks! With a teacher like that, Robert needs some downtime on the weekend, so he heads to his favorite park. But lo and behold, Robert finds a terrible surprise! His monster of a teacher has decided to spend her free time in HIS FAVORITE SPOT! Bound by social graces, Robert says hello, and he begins to realize maybe his teacher isn’t a monster after all . . . well . . . at least when she’s not in school.

What Wallace and I Think: This is a great picturebook for those of us heading back to school (I start on Thursday!!!). How many times have we all felt misunderstood by our teachers? Sometimes they’re worse than parents! Noticing everything, making it seem like you can’t do anything right! If you, or a child you know, feels this way, this is the book for you.

Peter Brown literally humanizes the monster teacher, Ms. Kirby. The longer Robert spends with Ms. Kirby in the park, the more Ms. Kirby loses her monsterous form and is revealed as a human woman. We’ve all had that experience of running into our teachers outside of school, and it feels weird to realize they’re people too, they don’t live at the school! Outside of school, Robert and Ms. Kirby are able to better understand each other. Most importantly for Robert, he realizes that Ms. Kirby isn’t a monster, she can have fun, but perhaps school isn’t the place where she can have it. It’s a great lesson in changing your perspective, and looking outside yourself to consider things from other people’s vantage points. This is one of the great benefits of not only reading picturebooks, but just generally reading to younger children, as it can develop their empathetic sensibilities.

Aside from the great message, Brown has created a funny book with quiet punch lines found mostly in Robert and Ms. Kirby’s facial expressions. The art is fantastic, and as I’ve already mentioned, I love that Ms. Kirby slowly transforms from looking like a monster to a woman.

While this book is obviously great for kids that have already started school, I think it could be of benefit for younger children to have this lesson instilled within them before starting school or preschool or daycare. Or, do you know a teacher that would appreciate feeling understood? This could make a great funny gift for teachers in your life. My mom might just be getting one for Christmas (if she hasn’t already bought it for herself, which is a huge possibility!!)

Huggers Wanted: Review of Simona Ciraolo’s Hug Me

Hug Me

Simona Ciraolo

Flying Eye Books 2014

The Story: Felipe the cactus wants a hug, but his family isn’t the touchy-feely types. Felipe sets off to find a friend, but being a cactus, it seems impossible to find someone who wants to get close. After hurting a balloon and bringing shame onto his family, Felipe gives up his search for a friend and lives alone. Until, one day, he finds someone as lonely as himself, the perfect friend who doesn’t mind Felipe’s prickles! And Felipe gets the hug he’s always wanted.

What Wallace and I Think: This picturebook is hilarious for children and the adults reading to them. If you love clever word play as much as I do, the humour starts with the paratext as the book opens with labelled portraits of Felipe’s family which include: Aunt Obessa, Bigbrotherus Pricklearum, Cuginus Cleistocactus. There’s the hilarious punchline when Felipe is growing closer and closer with his potential balloon friend, which relies on the drama of turning the next page to find an angry cacti family member holding a newspaper with the front page reading “Cacti House Scandal. Cactus Attack. Balloon in Hospital” (npg).

The crayon heavy art is fun and in a kid-like style, making it appealing to young readers. There is little text, so the colorful images do the heavy lifting when telling the story, making it ideal for very young readers.

My only complaint is that the metaphor of the cactus wanting a hug falls apart for me. From the back cover, it seems like the book addresses what it is like to not get the love and attention you need from your family. But then Felipe continues to be rejected because he is a cactus. So then could this be a larger comment on prejudice? On assuming someone is one way because of their family?! Or am I being too much of an English Major, and it’s really just about a walking and talking cactus. You decide.

Metaphor aside, this is a fun, colorful, feel-good book little ones will love to have read to them by their favorite hugger.

Good Grief!: Review of Bug in a Vacuum

Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt

Tundra Books 2015

The Story: A wee little fly and a dog’s favorite stuffed toy get sucked into a vacuum, causing both the fly and dog to experience the five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, despair, anger, and acceptance.

What Wallace and I Think: Grief and the stages one goes through to cope with it is such a unique and interesting topic for a picturebook. I especially appreciate that Watt explores two types of grief within the text. For the dog, whose favorite toy has been sucked in the vacuum, it is grief over losing a loved one (and no, the dog does not get his toy back, which teaches a valuable lesson about loss). For the bug, who suddenly finds himself stuck in a vacuum, it is grief that comes from an expected and uncontrollable change (so your child might relate to this in terms of having to move, change schools, start a new school/daycare ect). What is particularly nice is that Watt deals with this heavy subject matter with humour. The picturebook is not a downer, nor does it trivialize the bug and dog’s grief. It strikes a perfect balance of respecting the characters’ emotions with humour. It is a book you can come back to with your child, or yourself J, when a sudden change or loss has occurred to help give voice to difficult emotions. Plus there is a happy ending, leaving the reading on a positive note.

Don Draper approves of this advertisement    

I enjoyed the art in the book immensely. There is very little text, so most of the story is told through images and clever advertisements on household items with jokes hidden in the ads for the adult reading to their little ones, which also gives the whole setting a very 50s-60s Mad Men ad feel (in other words, Don Draper would approve of this book). There is TONS to look at on each page, making this a book that would be ideal for re-readings, and probably one kids will be asking to be read again. With there being so little text, it is one younger kids can “re-read” on their own.The book is longer than your average picturebook. More bang for your buck! But because it’s longer, be aware that the first time reading it may have to extend past one story time. However, when you’ve gone through it once and know the story, I think rereading could go quicker with your child wanting to flip to favorite parts, and maybe focusing on different pages with each reading.

This would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s library. The bug is feisty, the dog is adorable, and the message is important. I’m passionate about destigmatizing mental health issues, and picturebooks like Watt’s is a step towards doing so. This could be read to children as young as toddlers, and could be an interesting teaching tool in classrooms with elementary age children.

And of course Wallace likes anything that features a dog, so he gives it five paws.

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to J. K. Rowling, born this day 1965. Rowling gave us the Harry Potter series, which I and many others will be forever grateful. Play a game of Quidditch with your Potterhead friends and finish with a butter beer in honour of this children’s literature titan.

jk-rowling-author-photo-harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-book-cover-photo

What’s your favorite Harry Potter book?