Wednesday, September 23, 2020

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (And Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion

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How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (And Falls) of a Rock-Climbing Champion by Ahima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao. Grades K-4. Make Me a World, 2020. 40 pages. Review copy provided by my local library. 

Ashima Shiraishi knows about problems. Problems are what rock climbers call the boulders that they climb: each one is a problem to solve. Shiraishi is a world champion rock climber who was the first woman in the world to climb a V15 boulder problem (that is a very, very difficult climb). And in this picture book, Shiraishi takes a look at how she solves problems. While this book uses Shiraishi's boulder problems to detail her problem-solving steps, these steps translate to any kind of problem a person might face. 

She looks at the problem "There were many parts, and none of them looked easy." 

She maps out her steps. She gives it a try.... and she falls. But does she give up? Of course not! "Then, when I was ready, I looked at the problem again with the new information the fall had given me." 

This is an encouraging book that is wonderful to share with kids of all ages who might struggle with perseverance in the face of difficulty. It would make a great classroom read aloud to set the tone for your class. The text reinforces the importance of learning from your failures and getting up to try and try again. Of course Shiraishi did not become a world champion by getting everything perfectly right the first time. I love how she structures her falls as opportunities to learn and to approach a problem in a new way. 

Not only is this a great book about problem solving and perseverance to have on your shelves and to know about for your patrons, but it's also a story that celebrates women and Asian Americans in sports and the accomplishments of a young person. Ashima Shiraishi was born in 2001, so she wrote this book as a teenager and she won world championships in climbing as a teen, so this is definitely a story that young people will relate to. And I think it's got some nice words of wisdom for us all!