By Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona and Maria Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
In the second installment of February’s MTYT Dorea Kleker and Maria Acevedo-Aquino discuss the picturebook I Got It!, written and illustrated by David Wiesner. The focus this month is picturebooks published between 2016 and 2018 by authors and illustrators who are featured in the Tucson Festival of Books.
I Got It! follows the brief moment when a baseball is in the air and the protagonist eagerly hopes to catch it in the outfield. From the strike of the bat to the satisfying catch, a lot can go wrong. And they all flash through the outfielder’s head as a ball sails towards him. He wants the victory of saying, “I got it!” and subsequently imagines he trips, is held back by a tree or flies towards the ball. Over time, he overcomes the anxieties of the game and uses his imagination to aid his success in a moment of panic. Wiesner won 3 Caldecott Medals and is known for telling stories through illustrations and minimal text (if at all). In I Got It!, he illustrates the story of courage inspired by a single chaotic moment.
MARIA: In this nearly-wordless book, a child joins a new baseball team as an outfielder and is responsible for catching a fly ball. As the ball falls, the child’s worst fears emerge: What if I can’t catch the ball? Will I be able to run fast enough? Jump high enough? Fly, if needed? How will the team react if I catch it? If I miss it? If we bump all together? Do I have what it takes? And finally, he catches the ball and now, for today, he belongs.
As someone who has played many team sports, I think Wiesner’s illustrations capture the intense emotions (anxiety, stress, tension) around being new to a team and needing to prove that you’re worthy of the team’s trust.
DOREA: I am also drawn to the detailed facial expressions that Wiesner’s illustrations convey. The time between a ball being hit and being caught (or not caught) is short, and yet, I am reminded of how many different emotions can happen in a short span of time. I think of Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall as another example of an entire book that takes place over a few short–yet seemingly long–minutes as young Jabari contemplates his leap off the high dive.
In addition to the children and their captivating, detailed faces, the flock of birds are also prominent and dynamic fixtures throughout the story. I read the story the first few times with my focus on the children, and then I read it again from the perspective of the birds. I’d like to say that I felt confident in my interpretation of their role, however I still wonder why Wiesner chose these and what their significance might be?
MARIA: Both Jabari Jumps and I Got It! reflect life and whether or not one dares to take risks. There are voices in Jabari’s mind, some encouraging him to jump into the pool and others to step down. In Jabari Jumps, the father plays an important role in supporting Jabari to take the plunge. However, he also supports Jabari’s self-confidence, so that he can also continue to jump throughout his life.
Reading Jabari and Wiesner’s rationale for writing I Got It! made me think the birds represent the voices in the child’s head. These voices might include all kinds of messages, some more positive than others. Maybe one of the birds represents someone in the child’s life who is supportive, just like Jabari’s dad was with him. In his description, Wiesner explains that when his daughter played softball she felt that these voices were so strong that she sometimes had a hard time focusing on catching the ball. This makes me wonder how the story would end if the child misses the catch. Would the birds be drawn differently?
DOREA: This tension is central to taking risks–sometimes we will succeed, other times we will fail, and yet one never truly knows the outcome until they try. Instead of neatly packaging this as a story of success, Wiesner illustrates the inherent tensions in any risk by offering his readers both the fantasy of “what if?” alongside the reality of “what is/was.”
Title: I Got It!
Author and Illustrator: David Wiesner
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: April 3, 2018