What Shall We Do?
What Shall We Do?
“Have you noticed? Our cub won’t… you know…”
“Baby, go ahead and fart.”
In What Shall We Do?, we get to giggle alongside author/illustrator Sua Hyeon as a little bear cub’s parents fret about his gas… or lack thereof. Written using dialogue between the bear parents and sidebar comments made by little bear cub to himself, Hyeon’s book acts as an early graphic novel. What Hyeon has created is a rather ingenious exploration of the comical nature of parents’ worries and children’s resilient responses.
Young children will find much to laugh at as the little bear cub begins to float away as he fills with unexpelled gas, fulfilling his parents’ worst fears. His calm demeanor and obvious joy at being full of gas provides a child’s counternarrative to a parent-driven story. The spare yet expressive illustrations capture the bears’ emotions beautifully. Hyeon, in the introductory comments of the book, remarks that children are very strong, even in the face of anxious parenting. The little bear cub certainly lives this strength in the face of his farcically nervous bear parents. When he finally farts and whizzes back to the ground, his parents find something new to worry about: that terrible smell!
While children’s books that deal with gas, not to mention all other humorous bodily functions, have been written many times before, what makes Hyeon’s book unique is that it is not about gas at all. By using flatulence as a subject matter, What Shall We Do? is able to make doubly ridiculous the nature of over-nervous parents. What might at first seem like a book told from the parents’ perspective is actually a well-conceived story told from the child’s point of view about the challenges of being parented.
Catherine-Laura Dunnington is a preschool teacher and doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education.