My husband and I are really pretty different people. I'm a rule follower, a by-the-book, here's how it should be done kind of girl. I look for the best way to do something (research is my forte) and then try to arrange a situation for the optimal outcome. I'm not very creative in that regard. Hubs, on the other hand, is a let's-not-read-instructions-til-we-have-to guy, one who can visualize how he wants a project to turn out and then puts together the items he needs to realize that vision. He thinks about the outcome before he jumps in, and then adapts as necessary to get the results he wants. He's a much more out-of-the-box thinker.
When I make dinner, it's from a recipe. When Hubs makes dinner, it's with whatever's on hand.
And yet, somehow, we manage to do pretty great things when we work together. (Except when assembling IKEA furniture. That can get ugly.) I think it's the strength of our opposite skill sets, that allows each person's weaknesses to be balanced out. Obviously we're doing something right, if we haven't killed each other in ten years of marriage!
So I could really relate to the characters Rafael and Maya, in the new book Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds. I mean, Rafael is basically me: when his teacher gives every child an identical "Going Places" kit, containing parts and instructions to make a go-cart, Rafael heads straight home and studies on the right way to do things. He follows the directions and soon has a picture-perfect go-cart. Maya, however, is just exactly like my husband. She takes her kit home and uses it as a stool to perch on while she draws and watches the birds. The next day Maya has completed her kit -- but the finished product looks nothing at all like a go-cart!
Rafael's response to Maya's creation is pretty much my own, in that he points out to Maya that she didn't end up with a go-cart. But Maya answers back, "Who said it HAD to be a go-cart?" (I can hear Hubs's voice right there!). And indeed, Rafael realizes that though the instructions guide users to making a go-cart, there's no rule that says that's what the kids have to make. So he suggests the two go a bit further and team up to make something even better, and decidedly more un-go-cart-like.
Peter Reynolds is well-known in the kidlit community not only for his accessible and inclusive illustration style, but also for his books focusing on creativity (Ish, if you haven't read it, is one not to miss!). Going Places, teaming Peter up with his twin brother Paul, not only demonstrates the power of creative thinking, but also the benefits of working in a team. I love that Maya and Rafael build something together that is twice as marvelous as they could have come up with on their own. They do so by combining their resources, both in terms of supplies and ideas. This focus on collaboration is really terrific - it demonstrates to kids that sometimes we find what we need not through our own ingenuity, but by relying on another to give us perspective, encouragement and ideas. And of course, I love that Maya and Rafael's creation blows the competition away. :)
Teachers and librarians take note: the Reynolds brothers have crafted something really special here -- a book that's fun, inclusive and lighthearted, but which teaches kids a critical lesson about the value of collaboration. Books like this, that feature diverse characters in lead roles, and show them achieving their goals through creativity and resourcefulness, should be the centerpiece of every home and classroom library. Going Places is one not to miss!
Going Places by Peter & Paul Reynolds, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Sample: "Rafael was confused. The set of instructions inside the box were for a GO-CART. But then again, they didn't say it HAD to be a go-cart. He looked again at Maya's contraption. After a moment, he grinned."