In this concept-driven picture book, author Shirley Chyzowski invites young children to imagine the secret emotional life of the world around them. What are animals, insects and plants aware of? What are they thinking about, if anything? Do they have an emotional life and feelings, just like we do?
Children love animals, bugs and flowers. In What Do They Think?, young nature lovers are prompted by a series of questions: Does my dog know me by my scent? Do bees understand how much good they do in the world? Do flowers have feelings? Does it hurt when we pick them? Complex and multi-faceted for even the wisest of philosophers, these questions invite toddlers into a conversation about the world, empathy, and the universal language of kindness.
The book begins with a simple observation: “I see a beautiful bird, sitting on top of a tree.” This is followed by: “What does he see as he looks around? Does he see what we see? Does he smell the aroma from the tree that we smell?” The questions continue. Other pages pose similar questions about various subjects.
While the queries are intriguing, the book’s power could be enhanced with stronger, more poetic writing. The listing of questions, each written matter-of-factly, doesn’t feel compelling over 23 pages. Illustrations could help build engagement, but here, the same image of a little boy is repeated on every page (with changing thought bubbles floating above his head). An opportunity is missed to tell a visual story about that little boy’s life and world: Why is he so curious and thoughtful?
What Do They Think? I Really Wonder… is a deeply appealing concept for a picture book. Unfortunately, the writing and illustration styles are too literal for the questions the book poses. A more imaginative presentation would make all the difference.
Also available as an ebook.