What Do You Do With a Chance?
Written by Kobi Yamada and Illustrated by Mae Besom
Forthcoming in Feb. 2018 by Compendium Inc.
“I wished I had taken my chance. I realized I had wanted it, but I still didn’t know if I had the courage.” The struggle of first missing and then deciding whether or not to take a chance is made relatable for young audiences in Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom’s third picturebook collaboration, What Do You Do With a Chance? As in their two previous books (What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem?), a young boy narrates his encounter with an abstract concept come to life–in this case, a chance. Through the media of pencil and watercolor, chance is represented by an enchanting, golden-colored, origami-style butterfly that flutters around the boy from the first page. The presence and absence of chance is poignantly felt across the pages giving full weight to the emotional decision-making the boy faces as he ponders what to do when chance reappears. With a cast of comforting animal characters by his side, the boy finally decides to grab hold of chance in final scenes reminiscent of The Never Ending Story or Puff the Magic Dragon–texts where a young boy also flies aboard a magical creature. A read-aloud worthy of repeated reading, Yamada and Besom once again urge young readers to live inspired lives, to face their fears, and to know that the full range of their feelings makes them human.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classrooms
Compare and Contrast. Gather the two previous books by Yamada and Besom, What Do You Do With An Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem? Support students to compare and contrast all three books in several ways by asking open-ended questions, such as: What remains the same across the three books? What is different in each of the books? What do you notice about the words? What do you notice about the illustrations? Based on student responses, create a class anchor chart to compare and contrast such things as the basic story elements, the ways the sentences are written, and the kinds of illustration techniques used by Mae Besom. Resist the urge to offer too much direction as you solicit student responses. Try to say less so that your students say more.
Everyday Curiosity: Asking “What Do You Do With A ___” Questions. Drawing on all three of Yamada’s and Besom’s books as models, challenge students to generate a class list of What Do You Do With a _____ questions using interactive or shared writing. Discuss with students the idea that we all have similar questions floating around in our heads every day. Expand your text set to include other books that ask questions including The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, Why? by Lindsay Camp and Tony Ross, and The Three Questions by Jon Muth. For upper elementary students, expand this text set to include chapter books such as Pam Munoz Ryan’s The Dreamer which explores the questions of Pablo Neruda, celebrated Chilean poet, social activist, and lifelong dreamer. With each reading, invite students to ask new kinds of questions. View the sites below in Further Investigations for resources on how to teach children to ask questions. Create a Wonder Wall that serves as a classroom space for year-round questions that may not have simple answers or any answer at all. Add photos of your students in “wonder poses” reminiscent of Rodin’s famed statue, The Thinker, with their questions portrayed as thought bubbles.
Representing Abstract Nouns as Physical Objects. In What Do You Do With an Idea?, the abstract concept of an idea is represented as an egg that can walk on two feet. In What Do You Do With a Problem?, the abstract concept of a problem is represented by a dark, foreboding cloud that follows the protagonist until he embraces it. In What Do You Do With a Chance?, a chance is represented by a golden, origami-style butterfly. As a class, create a list of other abstract nouns that could be conceived as physical (or even anthropomorphized) objects: love, joy, anger, hate, peace, pride, empathy, fear. View clips from the Pixar film Inside Out which turned the abstract nouns of emotions into characters with their own thoughts, actions, and lines of dialogue.
The Power of the Positive. There have been a plethora of books released in recent years that support young people to consider positive habits of mind, healthy risk-taking, and the gift of failure. Reflect with students on the ways the protagonist in all three of Yamada’s and Besom’s books faced his fears and self-doubts by drawing on the power of positivity. In what ways is he a dynamic character that embodies a growth mindset? Gather a text set of books to explore positive thinking with your students including The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat, Lines by Suzy Lee, The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires and Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. See our entry on After the Fall for more titles and ways to encourage students to have a dynamic learning framework themselves which pushes students to think beyond how these concepts apply to themselves and how they can help foster a more socially just and kind world.
Traditional Media: The Mighty Pencil and Wondrous Watercolor. As picturebooks seem to increasingly incorporate mixed media illustrations and the use of digital imaging, the illustrations in What Do You Do With a Chance? are created with more traditional media–pencils and watercolor to create the effects of texture and light. Support students to discuss how Besom uses color to signify to readers what’s most important as well as the emotions characters are experiencing. Also support students to notice that each page is a double-page spread, yet Besom plays with perspective to further support readers to identify with the emotion impact of the story. View other pencil and watercolor illustrations by Mae Besom. Then, have students create their own illustrations using pencil and watercolor to portray a scene or idea trying to mirror the ways she creates texture and light through lines and color.
Using Movement and Drama to Embody Chance. Incorporate multimodal literacies by having students work in small groups to retell the story through dramatic methods. Have students select the parts they would like to portray including the protagonist, the townsfolk, and chance itself. Encourage students to go back to the text to notice the facial expressions and body language of the characters to help them become the characters. Following group performances, have students share out what they noticed were similarities and differences in their interpretations of the story. Support students to reflect on the ways this experience can enhance their understanding of characters in future stories. Expand the possibilities for dramatic interpretations by having students create short performances of times when they took a chance in their own lives.
Be Inspired. See the Good. Take Action. As a company, Compendium has the motto: Be inspired. Visit the Compendium website and view their Start to a Better World video. Then, discuss as a class ways that your students are inspired and how they inspire others. Have students set their own inspiration goals for the ways they want to inspire others to do good in the world. Consider incorporating daily journaling at the end of each school day for students to list three good things that happened in their day and one way they did something good for others. Create a class action goal for ways the class can positively affect change in their school or local community such as: hang inspirational signs around the building, create a class mural based on What Do You Do with a Chance?, start of building-wide kindness campaign, interview community members about changes they’d like to see, or organize a book swap as a way of doing good.
Multilingual Partnership. As shared in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, when Kobi Yamada saw one of Mae Besom’s illustrations on a poster, he couldn’t get it out of his mind. In many ways, he was inspired to write the book after viewing Besom’s work. Mae Besom is an illustrator from China who speaks Chinese. To illustrate books in English, she uses translators that help her interpret the books’ words. How do the books hold even more meaning knowing that Kobi Yamada starting writing the book in large part thanks to an illustration he saw of Besom’s work? Consider with students the benefits of having a multilingual author-illustrator partnership.
Publisher’s Weekly Article
A More Beautiful Question Post
How to Stimulate Kids’ Questions Post (Great to share with families)
Camp, L. & Ross, T. (2010). Why? Melbourne, Australia: Hinkler Books.
Cornwall, G. (2017). Jabari jumps. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Luyken, C. (2017). The book of mistakes. New York, NY: Dial Books.
Muth, J. (2002). The three questions. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
Spires, A. (2017). The thing Lou couldn’t do. Toronto, Canada: Kids Can Press.
Yamada, K. (2014). What do you do with an idea? Seattle, WA: Compendium.
Yamada, K. (2016). What do you do with a problem? Seattle, WA: Compendium.
About Katie Cunningham
Katie is a Professor of Literacy and English Education at Manhattanville College. There she is also the Director of the Advanced Certificate Program in Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Education. Her work focuses on children’s literature, joyful literacy methods, and literacy leadership. Katie is the author of Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning and co-author of Literacy Leadership in Changing Schools. Her book Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness will be released September 2019. She is passionate about the power of stories to transform lives.
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