An interview with Kobi Yamada in partnership with Compendium, Inc.
The Children’s Book Review
Kobi Yamada is a New York Times best-selling author of many inspiring books, including What Do You Do With an Idea? He is the president of Compendium, a company of exceptional people doing extraordinary things like turning everyday items into gorgeous gifts that inspire. Kobi feels lucky to share his life with his gregarious family in the Pacific Northwest, where each day brings its own unique joy and magic. On this topic of joy and magic, we launch into our discussion of his latest picture book, The Candy Dish. Stunningly illustrated by Adelina Lirius, it is a story for readers of all ages about finding wonder in simple delights and the gift of a brand-new day. Prepare to be inspired!
Bianca Schulze: The Candy Dish is a story that leaves readers pondering the idea of what happens when something truly miraculous shows up in your life and how to find appreciation in these moments. What was the seed of inspiration behind this tale?
Kobi Yamada: The idea for this book started with a conversation I had with my daughter years ago. She was asking me how long we would live, and she was sad about life someday ending. We talked about how we really didn’t know how much time we would get, but instead of lamenting that we wouldn’t have forever, maybe what really mattered was how much we could experience and appreciate the time we did have. And that perhaps the best way is to do this is to approach each day like it is an incredible, magical gift and to try to be mindful of the amazing, brand-new possibilities that come with it.
Why did it feel important to you personally to share this story?
So much depends on how we look at things and what we choose to pay attention to. We can get so caught up in our responsibilities and irritations that we can overlook the tremendous gift of being alive. We tend to think of “normal” everyday things as common or boring or mundane. But I feel it is in the rich soil of the everyday, of each new morning, where the incredible can grow. I mean is there anything more promising than a new day, full of mystery and wonder, that has never existed before?
“There once was a child who was like nothing the world had ever seen. So in this way, she was just like every other child.” I love these opening lines. Was this always the beginning of The Candy Dish from the moment you sat down to write it?
Yes, that was the line that was in my head, and maybe more accurately in my heart, when I began the book. I just think it’s so important to reinforce with kids how rare, unique, and exceptional they are. And just as importantly, to remind them that everyone else around them also has their own form of exceptional uniqueness too.
The candy dish comes with its fair share of frustrations for the young protagonist. It is often through our down moments in life we come to realize the joys that surround us, so long as we take the time to notice them. How long did it take you to find the right balance of ups and downs to present to the picture book audience?
I don’t know if there ever is a perfect balance of ups and downs, but I do believe that we couldn’t have one without the other. This is a story about perspective, intention, and gratitude. In order to develop these essential life skills, we need ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, as well as moments of reflection in which to learn and grow.
The back cover has this message printed on it: “Life is the sweetest thing of all.” I can see this printed on a candy dish or even as a piece of wooden art. Your company, Compendium, Inc., offers an incredible collection of thoughtful gifts. For example, I love the crowned egg that pairs with your bestselling picture book What Do You Do with An Idea? Have there been any ideas tossed around for a fun gift pairing for The Candy Dish? Either way, I can imagine grandparents gifting this book along with a jar of candy to their grandkids.
We have discussed the idea of creating a little candy dish that could potentially pair with the book. It’s still just an idea, but it might be a fun way for parents to develop a new morning ritual of gratitude. Anytime we can be mindful of the opportunity to appreciate each new day, and to see it for the gift that it is, that is a good thing. It would be wonderful to see all the creative ways parents and grandparents could surprise and delight their kids with different unexpected little treats in their dish.
While I think The Candy Dish and the life lesson that it imparts makes a beautiful gift for all ages, do you have any recommendations for how an educator might use this book in a classroom setting?
Teachers could utilize The Candy Dish as a spark for creative writing or a jumping-off point for a discussion on expectation, patience, and gratitude. It would make a fantastic entry point into a discussion about creating a daily mindfulness practice or ritual. For some, it could be journaling or meditation, or breathing exercises, in which students could take time to be thoughtful and present.
For instance, in creating this story, I wanted to anchor the reader’s attention to the magic, mystery, and delight that the gift of each day can bring to us if we are aware of it. I can also see teachers offering a fun creativity exercise of inviting students to describe their favorite “ flavors.” Maybe it’s a “flavor” of a time where they remember feeling super happy, or perhaps a “flavor” of something they have only dreamed of and someday hope to feel and experience for themselves.
Let’s talk about the illustrations that Adelina Lirius created. She has made the artwork for quite a few beautiful picture books. How did you come to select Adelina for this book?
Our Art Director for this book, Jessica Phoenix, suggested Adelina as the illustrator for this book when I was describing to her the kind of joy, energy, and magic we were looking for. The more I looked into Adelina’s work, the more excited I became about the possibility of collaborating with her. We feel very fortunate Adelina agreed to join us on this adventure as she brings so much beauty, emotion, and artistry to The Candy Dish. She was a pure delight to work with.
I love the blend of the warm yellows mixed with the cool purples and blues and how the art conveys just the right amount of whimsy to the protagonist’s reality. How does the artwork make you feel? Do you have a favorite illustration from this book?
From her extraordinary palette, to her wonderful artistic style, Adelina’s illustrations have the power to transport us to a place of imagination and magic. It’s as if she has swept the dust off everyday moments and revealed them as the sparkling precious gems they truly are. My favorite illustration is when the story’s protagonist really begins to see and appreciate the true beauty in each unique piece of candy. I love how Adelina fills the entire spread with wonder, color, and possibility all emanating from that single piece of candy.
With all the talk we have done about candy, what is your favorite kind of sweet?
That’s a tough one, there are so many wonderful treats in life. But my favorite “flavor” of candy is my children’s laughter as we are momentarily teetering at the very tippy-top of a rollercoaster right before we start to take the plunge down in delight.
Is there anything else you feel we should know about The Candy Dish, yourself, or your writing?
Each time I sit down to write a new picture book, my hope is that it will spark a conversation for people of all ages. I can’t help but wonder, what if we saw each day as a magical new gift as we wake up each morning? What if we didn’t take it for granted but we saw it full of possibility to surprise and delight us? What if we were filled with excitement about what we will discover? What if we looked for the good and the miraculous everywhere? What would we find?
For more information, visit: www.live-inspired.com
Publisher’s Synopsis: What happens when something truly miraculous shows up in your life? Do you recognize it? Do you appreciate it? Do you see it for what it really is?
This is a story of a child and a curious little candy dish that holds a special treat every day. But it comes with its fair share of frustrations too. Written by New York Times best-selling author Kobi Yamada, it is a story for readers of all ages about finding wonder in simple delights. And it is an invitation to savor each moment and discover gratitude for the gift of a brand-new day.
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This interview—Kobi Yamada Discusses The Candy Dish—was conducted between Kobi Yamada and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Gratitude, Kobi Yamada, and Picture Book.