Some children’s books hide their moral lesson beneath hijinks and adventure. Others put their message front and center. Danni Maynard’s YOU CAN DO ANYTHING falls firmly into the latter category. Pleasingly this makes it easy to discuss the themes with young readers as you make your way through the story together, which is great in a book with a message as important as Maynard’s. At just 24 pages, this is a very short read, aimed at children of early school age – and predominantly young girls – who are dreaming about where their lives may take them. Maynard is perfectly placed to tell a story like this. She is a qualified pilot, a lecturer in aviation, and is working towards her doctorate in aviation too. According to the bio in the book, she “grew up dreaming big and wanting to break the stereotype of what women were ‘meant’ to be”, and “is a strong believer in supporting kids to pursue their passions no matter what the world tells them they can or cannot do.” These principles certainly carry though in YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.
Composed of nine full-page sharp and colorful illustrations accompanied by simple rhyming couplets on the opposite page, the simple story follows the dreams of a young female protagonist who explores all the possibilities that lie ahead of her in adulthood as she sleeps, from the possibility of pursuing a career as a pilot (like the author), to a lawyer, or a ship’s captain. Early on in the text, Maynard recounts how her mother has told her that, when her great-grandmother was small, these were options that weren’t available to women. “Boys only did boys things and girls couldn’t at all,” her mum tells her. These are outdated ideas that Maynard challenges directly, and her message of equality is further enforced when our narrator shares with us that “In my dream was my brother, he was there too. He was a dancer, a nurse and a vet at the zoo.” It is the simplicity of YOU CAN DO ANYTHING is what helps to make its message such a strong one.
Danni Maynard’s YOU CAN DO ANYTHING is wonderfully illustrated, positive and inspiring children’s book with a central message of optimism, equality and dreaming big.
~Joseph Sharratt for Indie Reader