Books Into the Wild: Artists and Rebels Picture Books Reading Themes

The Wildness Of Ideas and Solving Problems in Kobi Yamada and Mae Bosom’s Inspirational Picturebooks for Children


Myra here.

It is not often that I come across inspirational picturebooks for children that are clearly designed to encourage children to think differently or provide very clear prescriptions on what to do under specific circumstances. While the message can occasionally be too explicit to borderline heavy-handed, it was really Mae Besom’s luminous art that really made me take a second look. The visual metaphors and its surreal quality could not fail but appeal to me.

img_6816What Do You Do With An Idea?

Written by: Kobi Yamada Illustrated by: Mae Besom 
Publisher: Compendium, 2013
ISBN: 1938298071 (ISBN13: 9781938298073) Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2014) 
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

In this book, an idea has literally taken a life of its own. It invites the child to think about the many things one can do with an idea – from its inception to its full flowering.


I was especially taken by Mae Besom’s art as she plays with Kobi Yamada’s vision. Her background in design is evident given how she plays around with colour, perspective, and the use of full-page spreads as can be seen above.


It also speaks about the insecurities young children often feel about sharing their ideas:

I was afraid of what they would say. I was afraid that if people saw it, they would laugh at it. I was afraid they would think it was silly. And many of them did. They said it was no good. They said it was too weird. They said it was a waste of time and that it would never become anything.


The book will not only resonate with young children but with anyone who may be battling their own anxieties about not being good enough. What happens to this idea once it is embraced, nurtured, and given sufficient attention, I shall leave for you to discover.

What Do You Do With A Problem?img_6810

Written by: Kobi Yamada Illustrated by: Mae Besom
Publisher: Compendium, 2016
ISBN: 1943200009 (ISBN13: 9781943200009) 
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This one is a little reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree where a child is plagued by troubles and difficulties. Once again, Mae Besom has successfully layered the narrative with visual metaphors, adding a different texture to what may actually be perceived as a borderline-prescriptive narrative.


It also speaks about the very nature of anxiety which we teach in psychology:

And the more I worried, the bigger my problem became.

And so the general advice here is to face one’s problems head-on, literally; get to its very core, and maybe one could find something surprising right there at the very centre of it all. Both very helpful and inspiring books that I am sure would find readers who may be in need of its message.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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