Picture Book Review: “What If…”
Author: Samantha Berger
Illustrator: Mike Curato
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2018)
Age Range: 3-8
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
This girl is determined to express herself! If she can’t draw her dreams, she’ll sculpt or build, carve or collage. If she can’t do that, she’ll turn her world into a canvas. And if everything around her is taken away, she’ll sing, dance, and dream…
Stunning mixed media illustrations, lyrical text, and a breathtaking gatefold conjure powerful magic in this heartfelt affirmation of art, imagination, and the resilience of the human spirit.
“What If” is a delightful story about a resourceful young girl who doesn’t let anything hamper her creativity. As she’s sitting at her table drawing with her pencil and paper her imagination goes wild. What if the pencil disappeared? She’ll simply use the paper to fold it into different shapes and figurines. What if the paper disappeared? Well, then she’ll whittle the table into an airplane sculpture and fly into the sunset. The story progresses along this line until there is nothing left but what is inside the little girl’s mind – and what does she discover with that realization? That NOTHING can take away her love of creating and expressing herself.
Oh my! “What If” touched me in so many different ways. First, the story features a young girl of color around 5 or 6 years old, helping to fill a huge gap for diverse characters in picture books. This little girl narrates a musical story in poetic rhyme enchanting the reader along the way with her excitement, her zeal and her infectious attitude. I absolutely fell completely in love with her!
Not only that but she displays a confidence that we can all aspire to, children and adults alike. She has an inherent need to create – she knows she is meant to create, it’s who she is, and nothing will ever stand in her way or thwart her imagination. She uses her endless imagination to think outside the box and look for unique ways to express herself. This is so important in child development. As adults we (or at least I) tend to get stuck, doing things a certain way, trying to establish the right “mood” in which to create instead of letting it unleash naturally.
You can’t talk about this story without addressing the illustrations. They are simply outstanding! Bright and cheery and exhilarating, your little ones will be mesmerized by each page. From the beautiful little girl with the amazing purple curly hair and hip outfit, to the finely detailed expressions of dancing in space, frolicking along the beach and exploring the depths of the little girl’s mind, these illustrations are captivating and enchanting.
The note on the back of the book from the author and artist is as inspirational as the book itself. Inspired by real events, the author was forced to think outside her own creative box and thus, “What If” was born. This is a book that should be in everyone’s library from toddler to grown-ups. Truly amazing!
About the Author and Artist
Learn more about the author, Samantha Berger at http://www.samanthaberger.com/
Learn more about the artist, Mike Curato, at https://www.mikecurato.com/
I received a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m reading and reviewing my way through 500 picture books. For review consideration of your picture book Contact me!