Power of YETI. By Rebecca Van Slyke.
Illustrations by G. Brian Karas. Nancy Paulsen Books. $18.99.
There’s a bit of a spelling conundrum here. On the surface, this is
merely the story of a little boy who is befriended by “a very tall, very hairy creature” with hairy hands –
and the creature’s friends, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and the Abominable Snow Monster.
The giant foursome then shows the boy a trick to make him feel better about
things he cannot currently do but that his (human) friends can do. Simple, as picture books for very young readers go, right?
Exactly who, or what, is the well-intentioned title creature, though?
And what, exactly, is the power conveyed to the little boy? “I am a Yeti,” says
the very tall and very hairy helper – capital Y and three small letters. The
all-caps book title refers to the power of YETI. And the secret to feeling
better about being currently unable to do certain things? Well, that turns out to be the power of YETi.
At least most of the time.
The clever idea here is to visualize the notion of learning and
accomplishing things over time by envisioning a quartet of mythical monsters
(all smiling, happy and enthusiastic) reminding the boy that he cannot YET do
certain things but will eventually be able to do them. There is, unfortunately,
no hairy bigfooted creature called a YET, so YETI will have to do. So the boy,
encouraged by his newfound hirsute friends, learns that he cannot do certain
things YET(i) and needs only to engage in encouraging self-talk when he gets
frustrated – by reminding himself that he is not unable to tie his shoes or
score soccer goals or read big books. He simply cannot do those things YET(i).
The whole yet/Yeti dynamic adds a layer of amusing confusion to the
charm of the book, but it certainly does not undermine the underlying lesson. Take
basketball, for instance. The little boy complains that he “can’t reach the
hoop,” so the Yeti points to “my buddy the Abominable Snow Monster. He used to
be your size, and look at him now!” Indeed, the ASM is resting one elbow on the
hoop while towering above the backboard and spinning a basketball on one
finger. It may be a tad misleading to suggest that the little
not-hairy-not-bigfooted boy will grow to that
size, but the boy gets the idea and says he should tell himself he “can’t reach
By far the funniest of the many amusing illustrations by G. Brian Karas
– which are a major reason for the success of the book, the oddity of the
spelling issue notwithstanding – are the ones showing how the huge hairy
creatures themselves used the power
of YETI (or YETi; whatever). Bigfoot is shown shouting “YETI!” repeatedly while
steering the bike he has just learned to ride through an obstacle course – he
is about four times the size of the bike. The Abominable Snow Monster yells the
word repeatedly while learning to jump rope – with every leap, he cracks
through the pavement, pieces of which go flying everywhere. Funniest of all is
Sasquatch’s use of the word when learning ballet: he is doing an amazing ballet
leap (a jeté, for anyone interested in describing hairy-creature-silliness with
precision) and is soaring high above the heads of two human children, who look
up at his prowess with entirely understandable amazement.
There is nothing really amazing about what the little boy wants to do – and, in a couple of instances, actually learns to do – during The Power of YETI: he eventually manages to tie his shoes and is able to score a goal in an impromptu soccer game with the four hairy biggies. But of course the point here is not to accomplish big things, but to get past the frustration of being unable to do small ones – especially when other (human) friends of the same age can do those things already. Learning to tell yourself that you will be able to do things in the future is much better than bemoaning your current inability to do them. If it takes a hulking hairy YETI (or YETi or Yeti or yeti) to teach that lesson, then by all means bring on the whole group shown in this book. Think of the toothsome foursome as a set of anti-frustration supercritters – you can call them The Abominables.