Chris Raschka's
Yo! Yes?

Chris Raschka's Yo! Yes?

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 3-5

A picture book about making friends across racial lines

So, can a book with a grand total of 34 words really

  • be a brilliant "how to" for youngsters on how to start a friendship, and
  • capture how cultural differences are really only superficial?

It can if it's written and illustrated by Chris Raschka!

With Yo! Yes?, Raschka proves that a picture is worth at least a thousand words with this monosyllabic, two person tale that manages to speak volumes. (And, not so incidentally, managed to win a Caldecott Honor.)

A black kid and a white kid cross paths in an undescribed location - because this could happen anywhere.

The black kid oozes confidence with his crossed arms, his oversized basketball shorts and shoes and a posture that should come with a t-shirt that says,

Way comfortable with myself.

The buttoned down white kid appears in total contrast, with his hands in his pockets and his downturned eyes and a shyness that almost seems to anticipate bullying.

Yo! says the black kid.

Yes? says the white kid.

Do you know what the black kid wants? (Because he certainly does.)

A friend.

Do you know what the white kid needs?

black kid and white kid cartoon

A friend.

Do you know what both kids get?

A friend. And someone to play with.

As a grown-up shy child...

I love Yo! Yes? I wish my parents had had this little book to share with me. It makes the point - as simply as possible - that friendship is available to those who simply go out and ask for it.

Now maybe that's not as true for older kids (or grown-ups), but this book isn't for them. It's for the playground set as they prepare to make the transition from parallel play to cooperative play.

Raschka's watercolors nail all the emotions. The brash (or is that just a pose?) black child and the shy white one both want the same thing: someone to play with. But they would have been ships passing in the night if one hadn't had the courage to suggest friendship and the other hadn't mustered the courage to accept it.

The last image in Yo! Yes? features both boys literally jumping for joy at what they've managed to accomplish. Hurray for friendship!

Webmaster's note: Do you have a shy child?...

My book, "How Smoolie Became a Shy-entist," might be able to help.

Smoolie is the story of a little girl too shy to introduce herself to others. But then her mom assigns her the job of Shy-entist.

Smoolie's research teaches her how common feelings of shyness can be, and it also gives her a reason to approach people!

How Smoolie Became a Shy-entist is downloadable from this site. (Click to learn more.)

Say Yo! Yes! to more award-winning picture books.

More picture books about bridging cultures.

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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