Our household is what I call a “book family.” Simply put, that means we all love books.
I have overflowing shelves and an embarrassingly long wish list of books to buy and read that I add to just about every day. My kids (4 and 6) have bookshelves on every level of the house, all of which are also overflowing—even after we’ve cleaned them out so only age-appropriate books remain. My youngest will ask me to read to her in the library, and I’ll walk in to half of her bookshelf stacked up on the ottoman, the floor, and the chair because she couldn’t decide which book to grab, so wants me to read all of them to her. All of us get books for birthdays and holidays, not only for each other, but from friends and family as well.
When I was young and had unreliable housing and minimal access to food as well as other amenities many take for granted, books were my escape. I didn’t own any myself—we couldn’t afford them—but I read them in the local library and borrowed them from school. And when I was placed in foster care, I devoured everything I could get my hands on and every book given to me was treasured. Going to the Green Valley Book Fair a few times a year with a stipend was something I looked forward to with unparalleled excitement. Knowing this, I’m sure you can imagine how much it fills me with a special kind of joy that my children seem to have inherited my love of the written word.
Of course, on the one hand, I don’t love every book the kids receive. In fact, I downright loathe some of them and immediately begin wondering if I can somehow remove them from the shelf without my daughters noticing. But on the other hand are books that I absolutely adore.
Books that I wish I’d read when I was young.
Books that I think can teach us all something, no matter our age.
Books that have the power to change our lives.
A few years ago, my kids got a book called What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada for Christmas from a family member. The title alone piqued my interest, but the beautiful illustration on the dust jacket also resonated with me and drew me in. I’m going to like this one, I thought.
After the rest of the presents had been opened, the kids settled into my lap on the sofa and I opened the cover, slowly reading the title page and studying the illustrations before I flipped the page and read the first line of the book.
“One day, I had an idea.”Kobi Yamada, What do you do with an idea?
As I almost always do—a habit that comes naturally and without thought or intention—I quickly connected that line with something in my own life with a sensation akin to a swift kick in the stomach.
I hadn’t yet spoken my thoughts to anyone else, but I’d spent months growing closer to uttering aloud that I wanted to return to writing, that I wanted to use words to help people. To admitting aloud that my childhood dream of being a writer and an editor and helping people was still very much alive. And the words I’d just read practically jumped off the page at me, telling me to pay very close attention.
As I turned the pages, reading the story to my kids, I felt as if the book had been written just for me, the words typed onto the page expressly to make sure I came across them. The character with the idea doesn’t understand it and tries to abandon it, but it followed anyway.
“I worried what others would think. What would people say about my idea? I kept it to myself. I hid it away and didn’t talk about it.”Kobi Yamada, What do you do with an idea?
Holy cow, I thought. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for years and what I’m doing right now.
The story follows the growing love for the idea, facing rejection and doubt after finding the courage to share it, and then digging deep to maintain faith in the face of naysayers. And then the idea takes flight. The previously gray and white illustrations with only hints of something more around the idea suddenly burst into glorious color, intensifying the light and beauty of the entire world, highlighting the joy of the person with the idea.
The story is beautiful in every way: the concepts, the words, and the illustrations. It teaches children—and reminds us as adults—to believe in ourselves and follow our dreams. That when we pursue something with passion, we have the ability to make a difference in the world, to make the world around us a better place—not only for ourselves, but for others.
Less than two months later, the story and words from this book ever-present in my mind and providing the encouragement I needed, I took that first step to nourishing my own idea—my dream—and shared with my husband and sister that I wanted to return to my love of writing.
And as of today, I’m following the rest of that dream by offering writing services to help others.
To support them in their own journeys of healing and telling their stories. To help them achieve their own dreams.
And, hopefully, to help make this world a more beautiful place for everyone.
“And then I realized what you do with an idea… You change the world.”Kobi Yamada, What do you do with an idea?
Katherine Turner is a an author of contemporary fiction that explores love and human resilience in the wake of trauma and abuse, as well as an editor and sensitivity reader. She blogs about mental health, trauma, and ways we can be more compassionate as a society. Sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date and get the first five chapters of her novel Finding Annie free!