June 03, 2019

The Little Book of Big What-Ifs

Written and illustrated by Renata Liwska
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2019

I like to think of Renata Liwska's new picture book as a consequential book of big ideas and hopeful opportunities. It's an opening to look at the world from different perspectives. In a world rife with dissension, isolation and fear-mongering, The Little Book of Big What-Ifs provides an opportunity for little ones to see the possibilities for turning that world inside out in a positive way.

Renata Liwska sees common worries that might plague children like What if you slept through your birthday? or What if you make a mistake? and turns them around into What if you're surprised? and What if we all work together? It would seem that, for every uncertainty, there is a possibility for goodness and hope and community.
From The Little Book of Big What-Ifs by Renata Liwska
Sometimes Renata Liwska presents the different perspectives in a double spread as in the example below in which What if you can't think of anything? could also be What if your imagination runs wild? Other times she addresses the two disparate perspectives separately, starting the book with more of the worries but ending it with the positives of What if everyone shared? and What if it spreads? before deviating from the questions and asserting What a difference it would make!
From The Little Book of Big What-Ifs by Renata Liwska
These big ideas, though, come through subtly and intimately, never preachy nor scarily. Renata Liwska's words pack meaning and consideration but at the right level for her audience. Similarly, her illustrations are profound in their quiet resolution of feeling. Perhaps it's because her pencil drawings, coloured via Photoshop, seem touchably soft, like pages of stuffies that include bears, lynx, elephant and mouse. Perhaps it's the emotion with which she infuses her characters, through expression and action. The reassurance the lynx feels from another after spilling milk, or the pleasure of the elephant sharing a radish sandwich with a mouse. Every illustration gives depth of feeling and sensitivity to children's unease about their world and daily events.  Fortunately, Renata Liwska's The Little Book of Big What-Ifs reassures, soothes and uplifts while still acknowledging those qualms as familiar and honest.
From The Little Book of Big What-Ifs by Renata Liwska

No comments:

Post a Comment