A thing I appreciate about picture books is how they can give us the ability to consider big topics in small ways. As an adult, if I were to just sit down and start pondering a Big Idea and how to teach it to a child—maybe contentment, materialism, a fair distribution of resources, needs vs. wants—I might get easily overwhelmed. Phew, I can feel my brow start to furrow just thinking about it! But a picture book that seeks to tackle a large issue succeeds when it distills the essential bits of the concept down into a story, told in few words and expressive images, that gets at the heart of the matter without a drawn-out, boring definition like you’d find in a dictionary.
I was thinking about this as I sat down to read Jessica Whipple’s Enough Is…, a forthcoming picture book from Tilbury House Publishers. I’m sure we’ve all used the phrase “that’s enough” with a kid in our lives – but have we ever paused to think about what that fuzzy concept feels like or means? I appreciate how this author acknowledges that “enough” can be a vague concept that is changeable; “Enough snacks may be one. Enough bags may be two.” It’s a good brain exercise to think about why “enough” can include both just one bedtime blanket on a warm spring night, and a handful of goldfish crackers, instead of a full bowl.
A lesser picture book would launch into a long explanation about how warm nights don’t need two blankets, and that a full snack bowl means less appetite for dinner later. But Whipple doesn’t spoon-feed the easy explanation here, instead choosing to embrace the fluid concept of “enough” and use her story to help readers learn about contentment and the difference between wants and needs. I also appreciated how the book speaks to the temptation of comparison with this phrase – “When you have Enough, it’s ok that someone else has more.” That’s a refrain I wish I had read in a beloved picture book as a kid, since I certainly struggle with it as an adult!
Lovely illustrations by Nicole Wong add some further narrative details to the concepts here. Some of the first pages in the book illustrate a small conflict: a girl gestures toward her friends holding their new teddy bears, and her mom walks her past toy stores and “new bear” billboards into a thrift store to shop for clothes instead. We see the girl slowly learning the idea of “enough” and becoming content with what she has. (A very cute bunny rabbit is also featured prominently. I cannot resist a good book bunny!)
Later pictures illustrate sharing and sacrifice on a level that most kids experience every day—giving up a favorite breakfast food, or choosing to take turns during a game. It’s a cozy story that would work just as well at bedtime as it would during a more focused reading time, and a great addition to your “Big Idea” picture book pile.
- Making the World More Beautiful (with Miss Rumphius) - May 17, 2023
- How Much is Enough? - February 8, 2023
- Picturing My Fluffy, Crispy, Silent, Impatient World - November 23, 2022