Name of Book: What Do You Do with a Problem?
Author: Kobi Yamada
Illustrator: Mae Besom
Publisher: Compendium, Inc.
Audience: 5-6 years old, but I believe the book would serve better as a conversation starter for older children and youth
Summary: A young boy discovers that he is being stalked by a “problem,” which appears out of nowhere, and will not leave him alone. The problem is drawn as a little dark cloud, which begins to grow as the boy worries about it. He tries to ignore or shoo away the problem, but it continues to grow instead of going away. He begins to worry that the problem will hurt him or the things that he loves. Eventually, when it has turned into a storm he cannot avoid, he turns to face the problem, tackles it head-on, and discovers that – hidden in the problem – is an opportunity.
Literary elements at work in the story (Genre/setting/characterization/plot/ theme/point of view/style): The touching illustrations in this book set the mood and help to tell the story. At the beginning, skies are mostly clear and the world is in order, but as the book progresses, chaos and fear begin to take over each page. The little cloud grows and becomes more of a deep purple in color. Compass directional markers begin to fly around, showing how confused the boy is becoming. The child himself is battered about by the storm and wind, until he reaches a point where he says “This has to stop!” From that point, he begins to look confident, resolved, and courageous – even before he realizes the problem is not as scary as he thought. Once the boy has embraced the problem, the purple chaos disappears, and a warm golden glow begins to shine.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The race and economic status of the boy in this story are not clear. Some elements seem Asian-inspired, to me – especially the sharply drawn birds that show up on almost every page. There seems to be a hint of anime in the drawings as well. The clothes on the boy seem to be from another century, but his toys include robots, spaceships, and a Rubik’s Cube. All of these elements seem to say that the experience of running from a problem is not limited to a particular time or place.
Theological Conversation Partners: Children and youth today experience stress and anxiety at new levels. For them, I think the image of this dark cloud may feel very familiar. This book, read alone, seems to say that a person can simply turn and face a problem head-on and it will go away. While this may be true for some problems, our faith tells us there is more to the process than just willing ourselves to face problems. We believe God helps us face them. Passages such as Romans 8:35-39 can reassure children and youth that we cannot be separated from God’s love. Secure in that knowledge, we are able to turn and face scary situations. Joshua 1:9 also reminds us to be courageous because God is with us wherever we go.
Faith Talk Questions
(These questions are written with older elementary or teens in mind. I think the abstractness of the story will make it hard for a young child to make these connections.)
- Have you ever had the experience of being “stalked” by a problem, like this boy? How did you try to deal with the problem?
- What do you think gave the boy the courage to face his fears? How does God help us to face our fears?
- How have you experienced God in a time you were afraid or anxious?
- Have you ever discovered an opportunity in what you thought was only a problem?
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Edye Bender for writing this book review. Edye serves as Director of Programs at Faith Presbyterian Church, Indian Land, SC.