What Do You Do With A Chance?, written by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
The world is full of people looking for the main chance. When we think even of just music that is devoted to chances and taking them properly, it is easy to think of a range of dealing with chances as diverse as Reba McIntyre’s “Fancy,” where the narrator is a young woman from a disastrous background given one chance to make a good living by using her good looks and charm to appeal to a wealthy man on the one hand, and the earnest call by Steve Winwood to “while you see a chance, take it.” And this book clearly lends towards the second strain of this thinking about chances rather than the first. As the other books in the series are, this book is deeply vague about the subject matter it is dealing with, and less concerned with questions of whether the chance is a good one but that the chance should be taken, because they don’t come around all the time and cannot be taken for granted. Those of us that deal with chances and opportunities know this to be the case, but more detail would have been better.
This short book begins when a young boy has a chance, wonders what one does it with it after not knowing why it is there, and is unsure and therefore misses it. Afterwards, of course, he regrets not having taken the chance, and soon he receives another one that he is uncertain about, tries, and fails at. This leads to embarrassment, and he ignores chances that come along in the future, finding that they came around less often, to the point where the boy is afraid that they will stop coming around at all. He resolves to be brave and make sure that he is ready the next time he gets one, and one day in the far distance he sees a chance and runs towards it, his curiosity and bravery stronger for once than his fears, determined to hold on to it tightly. He finds that taking the chance makes him feel free and that there is much to discover. And then he decides in the end that taking a chance is vital to do because it might be the start of something incredible. Of course, while the drawings are lovely and full of life, the book is vague on what the chance actually is.
And that vagueness, which is in line with the author’s general approach, is rather maddening. After all, a great deal matters as to what sort of chances are being talked about. Not all chances are created equal. The chance to make some new friends by trying drugs, or the chance to explore personal deviancy on the one hand is not morally equivalent to the chance to move beyond one’s shyness in overcoming social awkwardness or taking the chance to travel or develop new skills or to start a business or create a beautiful work of art. And that vagueness makes it seem as if any chance at all is something worth taking, when there are some chances that are immensely destructive to us and that prevent us from enjoying life and sometimes even from living at all. And yet this author seems unaware of the importance of properly evaluating the chances we have as well as overcoming our timidity when it comes to taking them, even when they provide risk. Perhaps that is too much nuance, though, in a book that wants to encourage children to be brave but not necessarily to be moral and good.