Review of Tiny Troubles: Nelli’s Purpose

Tiny Troubles: Nelli’s Purpose Tiny Troubles: Nelli’s Purpose
by Sophie Diao; illus. by the author
Primary    Harper/HarperCollins    40 pp.
4/24    9780063214460    $19.99

Two succulent-looking sentient plants search for meaning in this philosophical picture book. Easygoing Worthi seems content with life, but Nelli is restless and wonders about finding one’s purpose: “I heard it gives you strength when life gets tough.” Worthi drags Nelli into the forest to look for answers. The friends try to contemplate (and not be overwhelmed by) the scale of either the concepts they’re considering or the natural world they explore, with amusing results: a purpose is satisfying and comforting, but it is not a baked potato. The pair then meets a charming cast of mindfulness-centered characters introduced one by one with a steady, rhythmic pace. A frog stuck in a spiderweb questions goodness; a meditative stinkbug encourages looking within; and a bee endorses following one’s heart. The dialogue-only text is full of care and curiosity, with scaffolding for readers new to the comics format provided by color-coded speech balloons and lots of white space. The digital illustrations have a dreamlike texture to them, with fuzzy, misty edges and jeweled hues. When the day is through, the tiny plants haven’t found any answers, but they enjoyed the journey and look forward to continuing their quest and thinking more tomorrow.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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