What Do You Do with an Idea?

I know it's Wednesday and I missed "Book Talk Tuesday," but sometimes you just have to jump when the inspiration strikes.

And I've been struck.

I have a LOT of books.  It's what I collect.  See?

And this isn't even the half of it.  There are dozens tucked away in baskets, bins, and drawers.  As a matter of fact, as I type this, I'm reminded of a civics project my daughter is doing in high school right now. I just donated 204 picture books to her goal of bringing more books to a local orphanage.  Who has 204 extra books they don't really need?

I guess I do.

Or did.

If you asked me to pick a favorite picture book, I'd have a really hard time choosing just one.  I have that same kind of stress when someone wants to know my favorite song or my favorite movie.  I'm more of a "Top-5-In-No-Particular-Order" kind of girl.

• Pretty Woman
• Mr. and Mrs. Smith
• Mary Poppins
• Maleficent
• Sweet Home Alabama

Ask me tomorrow and this list would probably be a little different. It's just too hard to pick.

To date, Mo Willems has been my favorite children's author.  I love Trixie, Elephant & Piggie, and Pigeon... plus the lesser-known Amanda, Naked Mole Rat, and Leonardo.  Great characters, every single one of them. They make me laugh, and I like that.

But I also like books that surprise me.  The availability of children's books on deep and difficult topics is amazing.  We are lucky to have access to so many stunning and emotional stories. I remember I had a lot of nervous anticipation when I first read Eve Bunting's Train to Somewhere and I cried hard at the end when it didn't go the way I wanted it to.  (I'm so glad I pre-read that one before declaring it a random read-aloud in my first grade classroom.  Beware of those random read-alouds... know your books.)  :)

Earlier this week, I was in Barnes & Noble because, well, I just can't stay out of there to be honest.  I always go straight upstairs to the children's section, excited to see what's new.  Sitting on a special display table was a book by Kobi Yamada, What Do You Do with an Idea?  It was published in 2013, so it's not brand new, but it's new to me... somehow I missed it during all my other trips over the past year.  ???

I love it.

And I'm so excited about all the different ways it could be used in a classroom, I'm not really sure where to start.  

It feels like one of those books where every little detail is intentional, especially in the illustrations, so I did my own sort of "close read," noticing something new each time... like how and when colors are used throughout the story.  I want the kids to notice big things as they study the words and pictures, too.  I definitely think it's a book that deserves to be read over and over and across the year.  The message is clear and empowering.

I took a couple of pictures to help you get the gist of the story, but this needs to go on your teacher holiday wish list, no matter what grade level you teach.

It begins with the little boy having an idea.  He thinks, "Where did it come from?  Why is it here?  What do you do with an idea?"  

At first, he's unsure about the idea and considers abandoning it. Unfortunately, it started following him... like any good idea would.

He worried about what others would think of the idea, so he kept the idea to himself, going so far as to hide it away and not talk about it.  He tried to act like he never even had the idea in the first place.

But, deep down, he loved his idea and he felt better when it was with him. "There was something magical about my idea," he said, and he began to nurture his idea and give it a lot of attention.  The idea became bigger and they became friends.

Sadly, when he showed his idea to other people, some thought it was silly.  They said it was "no good," "too weird," and a "waste of time."  At first, the little boy believed them.  He almost gave up on his idea.

But he loved his idea (phew). "This is MY idea," he thought.  "No one knows it like I do.  And it's okay if it's different, and weird, and maybe a little crazy."  He promises to protect and care for his idea.  He gave it a lot of attention.  They shared secrets, dreamed dreams, and looked at things in whole new ways.

And then, one day, something amazing happened.  His idea changed right before his eyes.  It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky.  "I don't know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere.  It wasn't just a part of me anymore... it was now part of everything."  (Oh, I love that part.)  

At the end, the little boy says, "And then, I realized what you do with an idea... You change the world."

So, I'm thinking... wow... imagine all the ways you could use this book in a classroom with children.  

• I'm seeing it during reading workshop... questioning, inferring, predicting... main idea, character development, central theme...

• Or maybe during writing workshop... having a cause, writing persuasively... or just nurturing our ideas in general...

• Building (or strengthening) our classroom community... honoring others' ideas, having different opinions, seeing multiple perspectives...

And wouldn't this be a great gift for someone in your life (even an adult) who needs a little encouragement to move forward with something unique that inspires them?

Thank you Kobi and Mae for bringing this book to life and sharing it with us.

Good idea.



Happy Teaching!


  1. WOW---love your collection of books! Also love this book--I need to get my hands on it--thanks for sharing!-Lovely Nina

    1. Thanks! I think children of many ages could appreciate this story. What grade do you teach?

    2. Oh, what a wonderful book, Andrea! Not only can I use this in so many ways in my classroom but I've just purchased it for my oldest son who is a writer. We've had so many conversations about ideas, and creativity in general, being almost tangible and having a life of their own. We sometimes just have to step out of the way and let our ideas take the shape that it wants. Thank you so much for sharing this book!


    3. Thank you, Linda. What a great story about your son... I'm glad you got it for him! :)

      And stepping out of the way? Great advice.

  2. I love your in depth review! I am going to read it this week because this week, we are discussing Columbus. What a great fiction story to read along with our study of a man with an idea and didn't let it go.


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