This celebration of young people and the families that support them encourages persistence as children stumble through inevitable difficulties en route to triumph.
The opening page shows an exhausted-looking mother baking in a messy kitchen while the text reads “Before the cake….” The reverse side of the page is wordless, simply presenting the image of a jubilant child’s first birthday party, the guest of honor toddling along with cake-covered face and hands. The majority of the book follows this same pattern—a “before the” phrase paired with an image of struggle that accompanies the specific stage of life and a wordless, joyful illustration of the payoff on the verso. The book spans the milestones of childhood, from feeding oneself to first love and, eventually, graduation. The remaining few pages offer words of encouragement, reminding readers that failures and heartbreak are unavoidable but any setback can be an opportunity for growth. The humorous and emotionally evocative illustrations include culturally nonspecific characters with a variety of skin tones. The pages that depict a challenge are backgrounded by open, blank space, while the pages of success are fully illustrated, visually contrasting the feelings of frustration and isolation that can accompany the work of learning a new skill with the satisfaction of achievement.
Exuberant and loving; sure to incite giggles from kids and teary smiles from adults and possibly to unseat Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as a perennial graduation gift. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)