WHAT IF...We Used Our Creativity to Overcome Obstacles?

WHAT IF…We Used Our Creativity to Overcome Obstacles? & GIVEAWAY!

Please welcome my guest authors today, Samantha Berger and Mike Curato. We are giving away a copy of their new picture book, What If?… Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.

What If… by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato

This girl is determined to express herself! If she can’t draw her dreams, she’ll sculpt or build, carve or collage. If she can’t do that, she’ll turn her world into a canvas. And if everything around her is taken away, she’ll sing, dance, and dream… [picture book, ages 5 and up]


We love your posts, love your sensibility, love you for reading What If…, which is a book about the power of creative expression to triumph over any obstacle, any circumstance.

One can never compare lives with anyone else, nor would I ever never dream of doing so.
I am no Nelson Mandela.
I am no Anne Frank.
I am no Malala Yousafzai.
No. Not by a long shot.

But I will tell you something that unites us – we have all used creative expression as a way of transforming our pain into an art – and sometimes it’s the drive to create that art, that becomes the thing that saves your life.

In my own life, I have known lots of privilege, had many opportunities, experienced many advantages, that these three people did not.

I grew up in a time of relative peace, with liberal, well-educated, professorial parents.

I was exposed to many cultures, lived in big diverse cities, and had the luxury of a liberal arts education.

But nonetheless – just like you can’t judge a book by its cover – so too can one never know the journey of anyone else’s life.

I’m not going to say it’s been an easy ride – because it hasn’t been – but I am going to say, that on countless occasions, creating, writing, and drawing have been my savior. My purpose. My reason to go on. They have not only given me a daily discipline and challenge, but creative expression in times of trauma, sickness, and cruelty, has gotten me through to the other side. And that’s what first got me thinking about the common thread in this book – people who are compelled to create – no matter what.

I have stood in Nelson Mandela’s tiny jail cell on Robben Island, where he was unjustly imprisoned for over 18 years (27 years imprisoned total). It is smaller than a closet. Mandela was abused, starved, kept from his family, and monitored 24 hours a day – only for believing in equality for all.

Yet somehow, despite the extreme injustice, loss and mistreatment, Mandela managed to write.

He wrote page after page, day after day in that jail cell.

Somehow, those pages were hidden, transcribed, and eventually smuggled off of Robben Island, where they would one day become his book.

Nelson Mandela’s words persevered in the worst circumstances, and so did he. He went on to become the President of South Africa and finally put an end to apartheid. This was in my own lifetime.

Mandela was one of the most poignant examples of the *indomitable spirit to create* being stronger than any attempt to suppress it, and was a tremendous inspiration to me while writing.

Nelson Mandela’s tiny jail cell on Robben Island

Here’s a photo of Mandela’s cell that I took on my trip to South Africa.

I have climbed the secret stairway, behind the bookshelf in Amsterdam, and into the small hidden annex, where Anne Frank hid with her family, for over two years. Every day they held their breath, as they heard the terrifying STOMP STOMP STOMP of the Nazis on the streets below, who were looking to round up Jewish people, Homosexuals, “Gypsies,” “The Disabled,” opposers, resisters, and anyone else they deemed different or “other.” Those people would be instantly killed, or sent to concentration camps to work *for the Nazis* only to suffer the most inhumane deaths we can imagine — and even the ones we cannot.

Yet, no matter what fear they faced, Anne continued to write in her Diary, which survived, even though Anne did not.

It is through her diary we learn, even in spite of all she witnessed, Anne still believed people were good at heart. She kept the hope, and the faith alive in her writing, even in the most horrific of times.

The Diary of a Young Girl, (also called The Secret Annex) has been translated into 60 languages, adapted into film and stage productions, and read by generations of people.

Anne lives on eternally through her words.

“Original Book Copy”, photo credit: Gonzalort1

“Original Book Copy”, photo credit: Gonzalort1

I have looked into the eyes of Malala Yousafzai, and seen someone who believes with all of her heart, that every human in the world – every girl, and every child – has a right to an education. She believed in this so much that she took a bullet from a terrorist organization, who banned girls from attending school. But Malala miraculously recovered – stronger than ever – and became an education and human rights activist.

She founded The Malala Fund nonprofit organization, and went on to co-write her own autobiography, I Am Malala, as well as a picture book, Malala’s Magic Pencil, with Kerascoët. Malala’s words send her message to all girls, all children, and all future generations – that everyone deserves the right to learn. At age 17, she became the youngest ever Nobel Prize Laureate. Malala channeled her profound challenges into writing, and is an inspiration to humans across the globe. And to me.

Malala Yousafzai

Photo, Simon Davis/DFID

Ever since I started thinking about writing, I have thought about the endless examples of humans (from Maya Angelou to Yayoi Kusama, from Stephen Hawking, to Kurt Cobain, from Billie Holiday to RuPaul Andre Charles, and on and on and on) who have used the power of human creativity to triumph over any obstacle, no matter how great. They have showed the best of what humanity has to offer, during the worst circumstances that humanity has to offer. They inspired us to create this book, and I hope they inspire you, too.

They are the proof that creating can define your life.

It has undisputedly defined mine.

Thank you again and again for having us on your blog, Pragmatic Mom. We are extremely grateful for all the work you do, and will always be reading your posts. Keep up the wonderful work.

Samantha (& Mike)


What If?… Picture Book Giveaway

We are giving away a copy of their new picture book, What If?… Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information and to order your copy, please visit Mike or Samantha.

Please join us for the rest of The Official What If?… Blog Tour:

3/26 Nerdy Book Club: WHAT IF…We Told You the Story Behind the Story?
3/27 Seven Impossible Things: WHAT IF…Mike Curato Used Mixed Media to Make a Book?
3/28 PragmaticMom: WHAT IF…We Used Our Creativity to Overcome Obstacles?
3/29 Kidlit Frenzy: WHAT IF…Two Best Friends Made a Book Together?
3/30 Watch Connect Read: WHAT IF…We Revealed our New Book Trailer?

Also, check to see if we’ll be in a town near you on our upcoming book tour!

What If?... Blog Tour

Mike Curato & Samantha Berger

(photo credit Leo Moreton)


To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I am moved into tears by reading all this, Mandela ,Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai underwent hardship but they did not deter them from writing down what the believed in.Indeed creativity overcomes obstacles. Thank you for sharing this today
    Buheri recently posted…Inflatable Bubble Tent Review-Light Weight Camping ShelterMy Profile

  2. Kathy K

    My daughter was recently gifted She Persisted which is full of great non-fiction inspiration!
    Thanks for the great post!

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