Dream Big by Kat Kronenberg
A Book Review
[I did receive a free copy of this book in return for my review but all opinions are my own.]
Finding new books that I can read to both my students and my children are a treasure! Despite teaching fifth grade, my students love a good book with an even greater story! I quickly skimmed through the book before reading it to them and I struggled to put it down! The illustrations by Stephanie Dehennin are captivating and tell a story by themselves.
The story starts as the main character, Baboon, overhears Caterpillar proclaiming his wish. He laughs and declares that he will never be able to fly – caterpillars cannot do that! Yet, over time, he finds his star and believes in himself. He breaks out of his cocoon and is able to fly! Just as Caterpillar wished to fly, Tadpole wishes to dance, Flamingo wishes to be beautiful, and Termite wishes for a home. Each and every time Baboon laughs their wish away – until it comes true! He is continually stunned. Towards the end of the book his heart starts changing and he realizes that he, and everyone else, can do anything they set their mind to do!
One of the best parts about the book is the note to “two-legged friends” and there are different ways to turn the lesson of the story in to a project or craft! As I read the story to my students they slowly picked up on the morale of the story. By the end they were all ready to share their dreams! This is what I love. I could have listened to these students share ALL day! I work in an area where the graduation rates are low and poverty levels are high but I have such high beliefs for my students. They all have great dreams and I want to see them succeed because I know they can!
I let them share for about 15 minutes. Some were so excited and others were still unsure. One student even said “Uh? I’m only in the 5th grade, I just don’t know my goals right now!” After sharing, we started our next activity! I wanted them to write about one person who encourages them and WHY. I needed them to make the connection between what that person did and why they felt encouraged. The answers were all so wonderful but these two got me. They chose to write about me! I hope and pray my students realize how much I love them and believe in them!
BONUS! Author Interview! I love when I get to pick the brains of the author writing a book I love.
What was your inspiration for Dream Big…
How long have you been writing?
These two separate questions are probably best answered together. Ten years ago I was at a symphony with my husband taking in the music with my eyes closed, and it was like I got whacked over the head by a 2×4. Some call it divine inspiration. I call it loud and clear. I was meant to write a book about the power of a smile to help us live our best lives. That was all I knew.
The whack didn’t give me any more details; so, I studied story, writing, and every genre of children’s book for over ten years now. I did not grow up with the dream to be a writer, and English was my hardest class so I worked tirelessly. I have written my story with people in it, without, in verse, with only 100 words, middle grade, and every other genre; I tried everything.
Then over the years, a couple other inspirations came along that I knew I had to include. The setting, the wilds of East Africa where I believe life began. The animals in the story. Many folks discouraged the termite. They suggested other more notable African wildlife, but the termite prevailed. She was meant to be in the book. I could not let her go!
And finally, the fact that we are all made of a priceless, timeless treasure called stardust. This is a fact that I find completely fascinating. What if we can light the stardust in our heart? What if it is the divine spark in each of us that when lit helps us to live out our wildest dreams. The caterpillar did it. The tadpole. Walt Disney. Steve Jobs. I found hundreds of people, animals, and considered and read what they did to achieve their dreams. THEY ALL BELIEVED in themselves and their dreams no matter what. For me that is what the power of the stardust is all about. It gives us that extra bit of courage and strength we need to be able to achieve our dreams by allowing God, The Universe, Mother Nature, something bigger to be a part.
The illustrations are FABULOUS! Do you work with Stephanie Dehennin often? How did you connect with her?
My Art Director, Neil Gonzales, at my publishing house Greenleaf found Stephanie. She is actually from Belguim. She was one of many artists that we interviewed, but her incredible talent and vision captured the heart of the project.
This was the first time we have worked together. I had a lot of say in the creation of the artwork to capture the story, but we never actually spoke. We went through every page of the story, communicating through our Art Director. I am not sure why publishers do this. Creating can be vulnerable, maybe it is a way to keep everyone intact. But I could not be more thrilled with the beautiful depictions Stephanie created to bring these animal’s dreams to life.
I read this to my class and they LOVED it! Any specific words of encouragement for following their dreams I can pass on?
I would encourage them to go on the Fun & Learn Page of my website (www.katkronenberg.com), and at least do three of the different projects.
I’d start by building a Dream Board or download The Dream Book. With these they can begin to envision their dream, think about the people they can meet, goals they can set, things they can learn along the way to help them achieve it.
I would also encourage them to get to know their own smile, create their CATCH-M, so that they can practice what it feels like to smile big in who they are as they believe in themselves and their dream.
And finally I would make a YOU CAN Drum, just the name itself suggests the confidence of the outcome most kids need. They can create them out of milk or orange juice cartons, boxes, anything. I’d also suggest downloading the You Can Can page, filling out each can and putting it in their drums so they can remember as they create a beat.
Personally, I love the idea of a drum circle and all coming together to share a rhythm. We cannot achieve our dreams alone, and it is great way to invite a group conversation about our dreams as we go around the circle. My very favorite part is always ending with “A-BUN-DANCE Game” where at the end we stand up, shake our bodies and botties, as we all shout together, “My life is filled with ABUNDANCE!”
How would you advise someone looking to write a children’s book themselves?
I would encourage them to join Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Join a critique group where writers read one another’s work and give constructive feedback. Do writing workshops. One of my favorites was Andrea Brown’s Literary Agency’s in Big Sur, California.
I studied Joseph Campbell and all his work. I read tons of books on writing and storytelling. Two favorites were Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” and Nancy Lamb’s “The Art and Craft of Storytelling”. Then I read every book I could and wrote as much as possible. My library card was full 🙂