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What Do You Do with a Problem?

yamada_what do you do with a problemWhat Do You Do with a Problem? (Compendium, June 2016) Well, author Kobi Yamada and illustrator Mae Besom have some advice on how to deal.

A companion to the pair’s 2014 collaboration What Do You Do with an Idea?, this picture book is about a young boy with (you guessed it) a problem. What’s unusual about this particular problem is that it takes physical form and follows the protagonist around all day like a looming cloud. He tries ignoring it and shooing it away, but nothing helps. Soon the his concerns about the problem are overwhelming: “What if it swallows me up? What if my problem sneaks up and gets me?” The more the boy worries, the bigger the problem becomes, and the more he attempts to avoid it, the more inescapable it seems.

Finally, the boy gets inventive, drafting a plan to “tackle” his problem. In facing up to it, he discovers the problem has “something beautiful inside”: an opportunity. “Every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.”

Besom’s lovely illustrations complement Yamada’s simple, yet effective plot. When the problem first appears, the illustrations are rendered in shades of black, gray, purple, and brown. Despite this ominous controlled palette at book’s beginning, the art is so detailed that I was drawn into the world Besom creates. Once the boy starts to solve his problem and turns it into something positive, the color scheme brightens with sunny shades of yellow, gold, and red.

This relatable story will resonate with children who become frustrated or daunted when facing a problem, encouraging them to step back and view it with a new perspective. (It’s a good reminder to look on the bright side for the grownups reading with them, too.)

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