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  • Writer's pictureChantal Bufe

Book Guide: What do you do with a chance? by Kobi Yamada

by Chantal Bufe

I recently wrote about the importance of courage: why we need to step outside our comfort zone, take a leap of faith, and dare; why no amount of embarrassment or judgment should ever deter us from trying again and again, for the rewards of living with courage will always outweigh our fear of failure. 

And this is the very message of Kobi Yamada's meaningful children's book What do you do with a chance? - one of our favorite stories for so many reasons.

Published in 2017, "What do you do with a chance?" follows along the footsteps of its predecessors (What do you do with an idea?, What do you do with a problem?) in exploring life's most essential questions. 

Through the eyes of a little boy, readers learn how chances present themselves, often, unexpectedly: "[Chance] just seemed to show up. It acted like it knew me, as if it wanted something* ."

Seemingly so subtle, it is precisely this skillful use of Yamada's simple language that makes this story unique. Each word in this book carries meaning and truth: undeniably, we all know how it feels when an opportunity presents itself. When a chance acts like 'it knows us' and consumes us to the extent that we feel it wanting something from us.

Through Kobi Yamada's words and Mae Besom's gentle yet vivid watercolor illustrations, readers come to understand that an opportunity in itself is an emotional journey of (self -) discovery: initially, there is surprise and confusion, often followed by shame, embarrassment or regret. Finally, there is enlightenment and - hopefully - courage.  

Besom captures these feelings faithfully with a pure artistic finesse of her brushstroke. She portrays chance, for instance, like a golden, origami-style butterfly, accurately symbolizing both the frailty and the freedom that lies within an opportunity. 

A chance can catch our attention. Now we can decide to meet it with an open heart and fearless mind. Or we can choose to ignore it and then, with a flap of its wings, it is gone. 

But rather than dwelling on regret when an opportunity is missed, "What do you do with a chance?" has faith. In you.

Just like "butterflies are God's proof that we can have a second chance in life" (K. Kingsbury), this book reminds us that this is the same with opportunities. We miss a chance, we learn, and then try to be a little more courageous the next time. 

And when that next time comes around, we try and catch that butterfly, like the little boy in the story: we step outside our comfort zone, take a leap of faith... and dare. 

"What to do with a chance?" is a beautiful reminder that as we journey through life, courage is our road map. It is the only guiding force that reveals the unknown paths that are meant for no one but ourselves.

We all struggle with courage throughout our lives, but maybe, just maybe it is about nothing more than the simple realization that " 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." 

PS: 5 reasons why you should dare



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