Sunday 7 June 2020

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures

Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures written & illustrated by Josh Langley (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781922265692

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Subtitled ‘Finding the good when things seem bad’, this square-shaped 100-page illustrated book begins with an author note. Langley tells how when he was young, he made ‘heaps of mistakes’ but he soon learnt that ‘by looking at mistakes, failures and problems in a different way, things didn’t seem so bad.’ In fact, as you turn the next page, you learn that ‘Mistakes can be magnificent!’

In simple sentences, Langley shows how in fact mistakes can be helpful. The accompanying illustration shows a (stick figure) person accidentally smashing a ball into a window. There’s a page that shows how to turn a mistake into a ‘magnificent one’. Failing, the text says, can be ‘fantastic’. And so, the book goes on, showing how mistakes, failings and problems can be transformed. Friendships are emphasised as is accepting others (and oneself) no matter what they look like. Also addressed is social media (attractive face) vs real life (accompanied by someone using the toilet), as well as feeling weird and awkward being normal, too. Langley challenges readers to ‘be the star and director of your own life.’ One’s ideas, friendship, kindness, and love can make the world a better place ‘for all of us.’

At a time when mental health is high on everyone’s agenda – even as it relates to children – this is a book which is sure to be on the bookshelves of psychologists as well as in classrooms and libraries. It is ideal to give to (and be read to) any child who is having problems adjusting to his or her world, perhaps feeling out of place and not knowing how to cope. It is also an ideal book to initiate discussion about relationships and how to negotiate the world.

Langley’s illustrations are not high art by any means with all the people depicted being stick characters. Nevertheless, each page is brightly coloured with the stick people doing things such as juggling hearts, dreaming in bed, releasing butterflies, joining hands with others. Some of the characters depicted are (non-stick) animals, such as a giraffe, bird (dropping a message from high), and cat. The illustrations are often humorous which is needed in a book which is attempting to teach positive messages.

It’s good to see such a positive and helpful book for readers aged 5 to 8 years. Recommended.

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