The Most Magnificent Thing

Well, folks, it’s almost December. Can you believe it?

Since this is my last post of the year, I thought I’d start by congratulating everyone who accomplished everything you set out to do this year, perfectly and effortlessly, exactly as you envisioned. Bravo! (You can leave now.)

This post is for the rest of us—anyone who struggled with a manuscript, or illustrations, or architectural designs, or gardening projects, or diets and self-improvement plans. Anyone who felt frustrated that the things you produced weren’t nearly as fabulous as what you’d envisioned, despite the hours and effort invested. Anyone who felt anger, or self-loathing, or said “I quit!” once or twice along the way.

If, like me, you fall into the latter group, here’s a charming little dose of encouragement.


In Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent Thing  (Kids Can Press, 2014), we meet a creative (and unnamed) young girl and her canine assistant who set out to make something, well . . . magnificent. When they’re done,

They are shocked to discover that the thing isn’t magnificent. Or good. It isn’t even kind-of-sort-of okay. It is all WRONG.

They keep trying—tweaking, adjusting, examining, starting over. And it still doesn’t work. The girl gets frustrated. Then mad.


The angrier she gets, the faster she works. She SMASHES pieces into shapes. She JAMS parts together. She PUMMELS the little bits in.

All that angry smashing and pummeling leads to a crushed finger. And a tantrum. And this:


Boy, do I relate to this child.

Luckily, her wise companion responds with a leash. She reluctantly joins him on a walk, and—lo and behold—her anger dissipates, her head begins to clear, and she realizes maybe her project isn’t ENTIRELY worthless. So she takes what’s good and keeps working on it.

She works carefully and slowly, tinkering, hammering, twisting, fiddling, gluing, painting . . . Her assistant makes sure there are no distractions.

And, what do you know? She creates something that works. It isn’t perfect, exactly, but it IS magnificent.

(By the way, two things jump out at from those lines: She works slowly, with no distractions. Anyone else find that challenging?)

After picking up this book, I discovered it’s quite popular with teachers, as it nicely encapsulates the educational concepts of grit and the growth mindset (if you’re interested, you can find several lesson plans online from Kids Can Press, Scholastic, and The NED Show).

But it’s a valuable reminder to adults, as well, especially those of us involved in any sort of creative endeavor. So here’s to the creative slog—and to patience, perseverance, and long, head-clearing walks. May they lead to something magnificent.

Thanks for reading, and see you next year!

* * * * *



P.S. The winner of This Is Not a Cat! from the David LaRochelle post giveaway is Marilyn Garcia. Congratulations, Marilyn!




Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 45 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a how-to guide for picture book writers. Her books have been included on the ‘best of the year’ lists of The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, the Children’s Book Council, and The New York Public Library, among others, and have been translated into many languages.


  1. I’m going to need to put a copy of this under every tree this year – and at every desk, table, chair….
    What a most magnificent find!
    Thanks, Linda!

  2. I think that I need a copy to remind myself not to worry about creating a masterpiece, but to create the best piece I can at the time I’m creating.

  3. Thank you for the reminder, a very magnificent way to end the year!

  4. Sounds like a great book for every boss to give their employees. We don’t have to be magnificent to succeed. Magnificently done.

  5. Thanks for this post Linda!

  6. Linda – you’ve been saving this book for a year-end post, I’ll bet. And rightly so. It is perfect (or as perfect as a book can be.) Thanks!

  7. Wonderful post, Linda. Thank you!!

  8. Thanks for the post, Linda. I love this book! A wonderful reminder about the process of creativity!

  9. i’m adding this book to my list of must read’s. Sounds like everyone should have their own copy.

  10. This book is a must read! Thanks for all your insights and wisdom this year, Linda. I enjoy this blog and all the contributors very much. =)

  11. Utterly fantabulous!

    Thanks for all your great posts this year Linda. 🙂

  12. Love this book! The girl is even wearing the angry color red!

  13. Thank you, Linda, for reminding me of how much I need this book! And thank you for your posts throughout this year. See you in 2017!

  14. Love this book on so many levels. I think I might have to have a copy open on my wall. Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. Thanks, Linda. Let’s just say I find this character to be exceptionally relatable.

  16. This is great timing. After a year of struggling with all the issues that come up with any creative en devour it’s a reminder that the struggle is worth it. Wow!
    Thank you, Linda.

  17. Jill, what a perfect, magnificent book to end the year. TY for all you have given the kid lit community this year. May your holidays be happy, and may we all take it slowly and look for the gift and the beauty in creation.

  18. I really have to get this book! I need to read it to my 5 year old grandson. Both of us might learn something! Thanks and have a wonderful holiday season.

  19. Sounds too good to miss! Must get this one. 🙂

  20. I sure did need this post today. Thanks for reading my mind and presenting the perfect picture book to address my issues! Whew! I feel better already.

  21. This book really hits the nail on the head, so to speak. Great post, thank you.

  22. Excellent, excellent reminder! I need to get a copy of this book so I can re-read it frequently.

  23. Thanks for sharing this inspiration, and great book. What a wonderful way to begin the New Year!

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