What Do You Do with a Chance?

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
What Do You Do with a Chance? Book Poster Image
Life advice for the young shows how to snag golden chances.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to the concept of fables. Landscape, architecture, and costume suggest medieval era. Boy holds compass-like device with N, E, S, and W printed on it.

Positive Messages

Seize the golden opportunities that present themselves to you! You don't have to be brave all the time, you just have to be brave at the right time. When you let go of your fears, you'll feel excitement, and though you still might be afraid, the excitement's bigger than the fear. When you hold back, you miss out. Taking a chance might be "the start of something incredible."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy is realistically human in that he at first doesn't take a chance and gets embarrassed when he tries and fails. But he works up his courage. Though he still feels a bit of fear, taking a chance feels good. He doesn't want to miss out anymore since "There's just so much I want to see and do and discover."

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What Do You Do with a Chance? is the third and final book in the best-selling series by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom that started with What Do You Do with an Idea? and continued with What Do You Do with a Problem?. The books follow a formula: A young tunic-clad kid encounters an abstraction (idea, problem, chance) that appears in physical form, and by trial and error he figures out the best way to deal with it. Some kids may be confused by the abstract concept, even though it's physicalized, and may respond more to stories that present real-life scenarios. But others may tuck the helpful advice and encouragement in their (abstract) pockets to have at the ready. The book could also be a good present for recent grads or others of any age who need encouragement to snag those golden chances when they flit by.

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What's the story?

In WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A CHANCE? a young boy notices a winged, flying "chance." It circles him "as if it wanted me to grab it. I started to reach for it, but I was unsure and pulled back. And so it flew away." When another chance appears, he tries to catch it but falls, and thinks everyone's laughing at him, so after that, he ignores chances. "And the more I ignored them, the less they came around." Still yearning for a chance, he determines to be brave, spies a chance in the distance, and successfully grabs it and takes off, soaring over the land.

Is it any good?

Folks who like their lessons in fable form will relate to this inspirational tale of a young boy and the winged golden "chance" he works up the courage to grab. Set in an unspecified time and place, What Do You Do with a Chance? features a ruddy-cheeked boy with tousled hair who wears slouchy boots and a tunic with a pattern that looks vaguely Nordic, and lives in a town that suggests medieval Europe (though one child wears glasses and reads a book). Illustrator Mae Besom paints the town and other inhabitants in sepia, while the boy is in color and the chance is bright gold.

While the story is abstract, it resonates because it pictures the chance as real and physical, bright and butterfly-like. Also, author Kobi Yamada has written the boy as recognizably human -- embarrassed when he falls and others laugh, continuing to yearn for a chance, and wondering "if I would ever be brave enough." The mix of feelings rings true. He thinks, "Maybe I don’t have to be brave all the time. Maybe I just need to be brave for a little while at the right time." And when he runs after the chance, "It wasn't that I was no longer afraid, but now my excitement was bigger than my fear." By articulating the steps in the boy's decision to be brave, the story gives kids language to guide and support them in their quest to seize their own opportunities.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the flying golden chance in What Do You Do with a Chance? What do you think it stands for? What sort of chances do you think the boy in the story might want to take?

  • Have you ever held yourself back from taking a chance? How did you feel afterward? How about when you were brave enough to take a chance? Did that work out?

  • Why do you think some parts of the pictures are in full color and other parts are not? Why do you think the illustrator chose to do that?

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