‘The Yes‘ by Sarah Bee, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura (published by Andersen Press)
This book has been one of the most intriguing to come into our house in a long while. We’re already fans of ‘Millie’s Marvellous Hat‘ by Satoshi Kitamura, which has inspired H, in particular, in playing many imaginative games involving dressing up.
‘The Yes’, however, is a different sort of story entirely. It also involves the use of the reader’s imagination, but in an even more open-ended way than perhaps is the case with ‘Millie’s Marvellous Hat’. The language used in the text immediately sparks discussion, such as why it’s unusual to read about a character called the Yes, or where his ‘Where to go’ is, or who the Nos (plural of the word ‘no’) might be.
The plot follows the journey of a friendly-looking orange creature called the Yes (who we straight away felt was a happy character, as one of my good friends LOVES the colour orange and always tells us it’s the colour of happiness!) and the challenges he faces along the way. At every juncture there is a swarm of Nos, trying to discourage him by pointing out everything that could go wrong, or every reason why he might fail to achieve his goal.
The Yes doesn’t give up though, and eventually he manages to leave the Nos behind and make it to his ‘Where to go’, full of the exuberant satisfaction that comes from overcoming obstacles to do successfully do something, or get somewhere, that you thought was out of your reach.
Sarah Bee has achieved great things with the story she has created here, as this isn’t a ‘simple’ read aloud but one that requires constant thought, interaction and a questioning of things. C and H had so many questions as we read through this book and there were many things I had to explain as we went along. BUT, while that might sound as though it made for a tricky book to share, in reality it was quite the opposite – the boys were excited by the new way that Bee used familiar words and were really interested to think about why she’d chosen to do it. The illustrations were also challenging in their own way – the Yes is not recognisable as an animal with which they were familiar, for example – and they loved coming up with their own suggestions about what certain parts of each picture might represent.
More than anything, however, they connected with the message of the book and their journey through the text, facing challenges as they went, mirrored that of the Yes himself. They felt a real sense of accomplishment at having soaked up the wonder of the book and had clear thoughts about how they could apply it to their own lives. Somewhat predictably, a lot of their suggestions were based on situations in which I should never say ‘No’ to them any more, though I had to explain why it probably wasn’t practical for me to acquiesce to *every* demand for more cake, or fewer bathtimes, or never having to go to bed ever again… 😉
Having said that, it did make think about the times when I probably am too quick to tell them to be careful, or to stand back, or to maybe change their initial ideas in some way. I know that I’m only ever saying no to things because I want to keep them safe and because I find it hard to see them hurt in any way, either physically or emotionally (or sometimes because we Just Don’t Have Time to make an EXACT Lego replica of every space ship in Star Wars before we leave for school in the morning). Speaking more broadly though, ‘The Yes’ made me question myself (which is often a good thing!) and wonder about whether I also need to be braver in order to allow my children to be as brave as they can be.
‘The Yes’ is a picture book that has given me something as an adult, has given C and H something as under-fives and that I would also have happily used when teaching with children of many ages in between. For us, it wasn’t an ‘easy’ read but it was one that has given us something more memorable to take away than many others which we’ve whizzed through more quickly. I would highly recommend it as a book to keep returning to over the years, especially when you’re in need of a bit of a boost in confidence. Inspirational, motivating and generally just FAB!
Disclaimer: I received my copy of ‘The Yes’ from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.