Young children often inspire adults with their questions that make us think more deeply about the world, and their clear-sighted and interesting interpretation of how and why things happen. The early years of a child’s life are not all about them inspiring us, though; it’s a two-way street, with adults inspiring children as much as they inspire us. The mind of a young child is fertile ground for ideas to take root, and books can be a great place to find new ideas that lead children to dream big.
“The Wonderful Things You Will Be” by Emily Winfield Martin portrays a variety of children, from babes in arms to elementary school-aged children, while adult figures wonder what these children will grow up to be. From recognizing general characteristics that make a child unique, such as “A heart so enormous … And wild … And wise” to identifying specific talents such as playing an instrument, each page shows ways children are special and do meaningful things. This sweet book with its softly colored illustrations encourages children to be whatever they want, and reassures that no matter what they become, their grown-ups will love them.
“The Cow Who Climbed a Tree” by Gemma Merino has a silly title, but the simple story in this picture book conveys a meaningful message that wonderful things can happen to those with curious minds. Tina is a curious cow, interested in all kinds of things. Her sisters dismiss her and her ideas as ridiculous—all they care about is eating grass. One day Tina decides to try something new and climbs a tree. What she finds at the top of the tree is amazing, but when she tells her sisters about her discovery they do not believe her. When Tina goes missing, her sisters decide to look for her, following Tina’s path to the tree she climbed. The sisters are astounded by all they come across on their journey, things they didn’t know existed. The sisters come to appreciate Tina more and to realize the world holds a lot of possibilities if they are willing to try new things.
In “The Darkest Dark,” real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield tells his own story, of being a boy who loved outer space and pretending to be an astronaut, but was afraid of the dark. When he first saw footage of real astronauts on the moon, he understood for the first time how dark outer space was. It was the darkest dark of all. How does a boy who is afraid of the dark but wants to be an astronaut handle this? Rather than make him afraid of space, or give up his dream of being an astronaut, that darkest dark of all made him “see the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark.” Though he had been afraid of being alone in the dark, he now realized he was never truly alone, that no matter where he was and how dark it got, his dreams about his future were with him to keep him company.
“Maybe Something Beautiful” by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell emphasizes the impact one child can have on a community. In this story based on real events, a young girl lives in a gray city full of gray sidewalks and gray buildings. But this grayness does not match the joy she feels in her heart, joy that she expresses through colorful drawings she shares with her neighbors and with the entire neighborhood by taping colorful pictures up on the sides of drab buildings. One day, she encounters an artist who is inspired by her cheerful drawings. Together, the artist and the girl begin painting bright murals on the gray building walls and encouraging others to join them. Eventually the whole neighborhood is adding color and brightness to the once dreary walls, creating “something more beautiful than they had ever imagined.”
Darcie Caswell is youth services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library.