What do you do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada

What do you do with a problem? Children and adults alike are constantly trying to answer this question. Some of our problems are big, some minor, but we all have to learn how to work through the problems that challenge us.

An honest look at the way problems can absolutely consume us and make us stronger people, What do you do with a Problem? is one of my new favorite children’s picture books. 

As a professor of children’s literature, I talk to my students about the power of realism in children’s literature – and that this realism should reveal life’s wondrous and tragic moments. I convey to my students the importance of helping little ones read texts that share life’s ups and downs (at developmentally-appropriate levels, of course).

Author Kobi Yamada and illustrator Mae Besom’s latest children’s picture book What do you do with a Problem? (2016, Compendium) allows readers to explore one of life’s most difficult questions.

In a wonderfully honest and authentic voice, the narrator (a little boy) invites readers along to answer a challenging question: What do you do with a problem?

Having asked themselves this question (or a variation of it) several times before, children and adults will empathize with the worry that overwhelms the little boy. Yamada writes, “I worried a lot. I worried about what would happen. I would about what could happen. I worried about this and worried about that.” Yamada’s language puts words to feelings most of us have had. No matter what problem we have faced, we have all felt this exact same way. Unnamed, the problem with which the little boy struggles is any problem. It is a problem a student has faced. It is a problem a friend has faced. It is a problem we are facing.

But this is not a story about a little boy who becomes overwhelmed and debilitated by his problem. With great resolve, he faces his problem straight on, learning that problems are not always as destructive in reality as they are in our heads. 

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I love this book’s honesty, its refusal to sugarcoat real life. I love Besom’s illustrations and how she uses the absence and presence of vibrant colors to reflect the young narrator’s emotions. And I love the power and hope this book can give to the younger and older among us who need to face a problem.

I hope that you are able to share this book with the people in your life who need this book!

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