What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada – Review by Isla Cunningham

Something happens to us as we get older.  We used to have time to dream and to ask ourselves, “What if?”  Then we had even more time to let each scenario play out- to watch it crumble or watch it grow.  Now we don’t have time for anything.  We don’t have time to communicate unless it’s via text and half the words are abbreviated.  We don’t have time to visit so-and-so who moved across town or the time to read all those books that keep piling up.  And, most of the time, we don’t even have time to think.  That’s what happens – we stop thinking as we age.  We let a famous celebrity, our favorite television show, or the nightly news tell us what to think.  Even if we silenced the noise and finally heard our own voice blurt out an original thought, we might find ourselves asking, “Now what?  What do you do with an idea?”

what do you do with an idea

Author Kobi Yamada and illustrator Mae Besom guide us on the course of one child’s conviction in the celebrated picture book What Do You Do With an Idea? Yamada’s verse lifts us from whispers of self-doubt to bellows of confidence and joy.  Besom’s delicate pencil and watercolor pictures tip the scales from a hint of hues to a world overflowing with colors.  The tale centers on a child, neither obviously a girl nor boy, to whom we can all relate.

Out of nowhere an idea appeared.  It was glorious and bright and egg-shaped and adorned with a golden crown.  It looked delightful, yet curious.  There was no explanation as to why it appeared or why it remained.  How peculiar.  Its brittle shell held up only by twiggy, bird-like legs must require gentle care.  The child wasn’t sure if he/she was up for the challenge, turned, and walked away.  Yamada writes, “I acted like it didn’t belong to me.”  But the egg followed closely behind.  This idea was relentless and the child couldn’t shake it from his/her heels.

After toiling with the idea, trying to keep it tucked away and hidden from the appraisals of others, he/she realized this egg wasn’t meant to be hidden.  It was too magical to be kept secret; this idea demanded to be known.  Even though the child was afraid to show it to others, convinced some would diminish it and possibly him/her as well, he/she unveils it anyway.  Some did say it was dumb and useless or even strange.  But this one child wouldn’t listen to cynics.  Instead, he/she willed the idea to grow healthy and strong- as it did, he/she did too.  And soon, “It wasn’t just a part of me anymore…it was now a part of everything.”

I wish I could have read this book when I was younger.  I wish all those times I gathered the neighborhood kids to dig an underground clubhouse in the empty lot on our street or to assemble friendship bracelets in the clubhouse of our attic that someone would’ve leaned in and whispered, “You’ve got a great idea, kid.”  And while I’m wishing for things, I wish someone would’ve also tipped me off that my strength is ideas; my weakness is follow-through.

Now we have the delightful pages of What Do You Do With an Idea? to encourage us to believe it is possible to find our place, our purpose.  Besom certainly found her own place as a children’s illustrator after graduating from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and first beginning her career as a character designer.  And Yamada not only talks the talk in this book but also walks the walk as President of Compendium, a company founded on hope, motivation, and creativity.  It is where you can find innovative products such as a Tickle Monster Laughing Kit and another book of his, She, which praises and enlightens the women in our lives with quotes like the following: She saw every ending as a new beginning. She went off on a limb, had it break off behind her, and realized she could fly.

So what is hiding just inside your shell?  What desires lay dormant in your heart? And who do you think would love this book?


isla booksIsla Cunningham is the wife of a firefighter, mother of two little girls, and recovering cynic.  After loving works such as Little Women, The Secret Garden, and Jane Eyre, she abandoned reading after high school thanks to Homer’s Odyssey.  Ten years in the fashion industry produced only the occasional airport terminal book purchase.  Most recently, she found her way back to literature through books she read to her daughters at bedtime.  Isla spends her time dodging critters in the Texas country and discovering new gems at the library when she should be writing.  You can find her here at http://islacunninghambooks.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @IslaBooks.