It’s So Difficult

Eerdmans. Mar. 2022. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855848.
Gr 2-4–For some people, the enormity and chaos of the outside world are hard enough to navigate; participating is an even greater challenge. An unnamed boy is preparing for another day of school; he passes the same neighbors and gets on the same bus as usual, but despite his familiarity with them, he never speaks. As the intensity of the world increases, he shrinks into himself, finding solace in numbers and calculations. Even the smallest of interactions is a huge triumph for the boy, and each brave decision brings him closer to overcoming his anxieties. The English translation of this picture book, originally written in Spanish, conveys the intensity of the character’s emotions through short, intentional phrasing. The words appear in white font against a black background, never interfering with the illustrations but taking on a unique personality because of their dynamic placement. Illustrations, rendered in a limited palette, include many scribbles, pencil lines, and a variety of human appearances—usually people are white, but there is a brown gentleman, and in the classroom, everyone is blue. This decision provides a visual representation of the chaos the boy sees in the world, especially as he exists as an outline of a person within it. Markedly artistic in its approach, this book encourages contemplative study as important moments occur within many of the images.
VERDICT Ideal for the SEL shelves, this book offers a thought-provoking story that gives a voice to children, on the spectrum or not, who experience social anxiety. It also encourages even the smallest victories.

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