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May 20, 2022


Feeling Grateful: A Q&A with Author Kobi Yamada and Illustrator Charles Santoso

When we look closely at everyday moments—laughing with loved ones, seeing a daffodil bloom, whispering between friends—we notice they aren’t so ordinary. They are, in fact, wonderfully miraculous, if only we take the time to notice.

Author Kobi Yamada and illustrator Charles Santoso invite readers to slow down and be fully present to life’s gifts in their new book, Feeling Grateful. A sequel to Finding Muchness, this all-ages illustrated tale follows the adventures of a playful, wide-eyed bear cub. From dancing in the rain to watching butterflies flutter at the tip of their nose, this adorable protagonist reminds us that wonder and gratitude are choices we get to make again and again.

We asked Kobi and Charles to share a bit about the inspiration for this heartwarming story.

While we often talk about gratefulness, an all-ages illustrated book is a unique approach. What inspired you to explore the topic in this way?

Kobi: Gratefulness is such a beautiful subject for a gift book. Gratitude is not something you are just born with, it is something you can learn and develop. It is a life skill that has transformative power. But it is also something that we tend to undervalue and take for granted, especially when life feels challenging or stressful. Feeling Grateful is full of reminders and encouragements for getting back in touch with gratitude, and it empowers us all to look for the good, create positive change, be there for others, and make a difference. Everything counts, everything matters. And everyone appreciates being appreciated.

What do you hope people will experience as they read the words?

Kobi: I hope people are reminded of all the goodness to be grateful for. Life comes bearing gifts and this book helps them to untie the ribbons. The goal of Feeling Grateful is to inspire connection, encourage kindness, spur on generosity, and highlight how important we are to each other.

Do you have a favorite spread?

Kobi: I’m partial to the spread that says, “Talk to yourself in a way that is kind and nurturing, because you are listening.” I think that resonates with me because we are all so hard on ourselves. We are often our worst critics. And that is sad, because it is hard to feel good about yourself, your growth, and what you are trying to become if you can never measure up. I love how this spread reminds the reader that how we think and how we talk to ourselves matters very much. We all deserve self-love and compassion.

Charles, the illustrations of the bear cub brilliantly show the awe that comes from noticing everyday moments. Can you tell us about the star of Feeling Grateful? What qualities did you seek to capture in the bear and the bear’s journey?

Charles: I saw the bear as a curious free spirit, and a character that keeps moving forward with good intentions. Along the journey, readers can hopefully feel the gratefulness that the bear has in each moment. 

Your drawing style is deceptively intricate in many ways. What details do you hope the reader will notice?

Charles: Every single strand of fur, moment, composition, and detail in the book was done purposely and slowly. I hope readers will savor each word, and stop for a moment to get the feeling of each illustration in the book.

Is there a spread you particularly enjoyed illustrating?

Charles: It might sound cliché, but I did truly enjoy working on every spread of this book. Choosing the right moments to illustrate to make sure they paired well with the words has been a joyful and challenging (in a good way!) process.

However, if I really had to choose, I would say I loved working on the moment when the bear is watching the sunset. I wanted to be in that moment of serenity myself.

How does the message of the book speak to you personally?

Charles: I illustrated the book in the middle of the pandemic. I was feeling quite down and uncertain lots of times. This book has words that really cheered me up and kept me going. It was the perfect project to have on my table—a place to be able to draw and fully pour my hopes and feelings. I hope the readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed illustrating it.


Discover Feeling Grateful for yourself. Or give it to a friend to celebrate a birthday, offer encouragement, or mark a meaningful milestone. Each page is a beautiful reminder to open your arms wide and embrace the treasures of this expansive life!

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