What if I'm not doing enough for my kids? What if my students don't like that lesson plan? What if I run out of gas halfway between here and Denver? These questions aren't part of the book, or a quote from my kids... it's just a sampling of my inner dialogue from time to time when I'm not paying attention. One of the many beautiful things about Michelle Nelson-Schmidt's picture book, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, is that its message is just as beneficial for adults as it is for kids!
Jonathan James is a regular kid. He plays sports, he goes to school, he hangs out with friends. But when it's time to try something new, the little "whatif" monster following him around pokes doubt into Jonathan's mind. When Jonathan James is climbing a tree, the Whatif Monster wonders, "What if you tumble? What if there's wind? What if you slip, and your knee gets all skinned?" The Whatif Monster sews these seeds of doubt as Jonathan James is playing baseball, trying a new dish at dinner, running in a race, and more.
But finally, Jonathan James confronts the monster: "Now wait just a minute! I have something to say, after hearing 'what ifs' all through the day. I hear all your worries; I hear all your claims, But what if you're wrong?" And Jonathan James poses different scenarios, in which he has fun climbing trees, hits a triple home run in baseball, really likes the new dish... And, in the end, the Whatif Monster is having fun, too!
The lesson in this book is clear, but it doesn't bonk you on the head. It's Jonathan James that has to decide to think differently - not an adult or a friend. He's the one who decides to try new ventures, rather than being held back by fear and doubt. And yes, this is a lesson adults need to hear, too! We are all confronted with that little Whatif Monster from time to time, but we will miss out on some pretty great adventures if we let it decide how our day will go.
This sweet story is fun to read beyond the message, though - it has lyrical words and rhythm that help kids predict what's coming next, bold and playful illustrations that bring you into the story... and you can bring home your own Whatif Monster, too! There's a sweet - and really soft - plush available to accompany the book.
It's that book with a message so timeless and valuable, you'll remember it as much as your kids.
Buy Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster here! ($6.99, paperback)
And don't forget your matching Whatif Monster plush ($12.99)
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.