What in The World?!

What in The World?! 

About two and a half years ago, when I came up with the idea for my picture book Put Away Your Phone! I didn’t anticipate that it would be such a prevalent social issue. Back then, there was little in the news about smartphone use, let alone smartphone use and how it affects the family. I would never have believed it would become such a hot topic.


My inspiration for the book rooted from something that I started seeing in the behavior of everyday people. It seemed like more and more people (particularly parents) were on their smartphones…everywhere. Was this becoming an epidemic?


Personally, I use my phone for sending texts and only if I absolutely have to! I don’t enjoy talking on the phone. I do understand that some people like to. I even get that it can be almost addicting checking email and social media notifications all the time. Just the sound of that little ding when a text comes in, makes a person want to look.


As I continued to notice more people on their phones, I realized this was something that I had to write about. I researched as much as I could, but a lot of my material was based on what I observed. A year later and I published Put Away Your Phone! with the talented illustrator David Barrow. I felt good knowing we had contributed something valuable to the world regarding this issue.

Having had so much enjoyment creating with David, I asked him, almost a year later, if he’d like to do another book together. Thankfully he said yes because, at that point, I already had another manuscript in the works that I was itching to get started with him.

Too Many Things! was pulled out of my dusty pile of manuscripts (actually, I honestly keep everything in digital form) and we began our second project together. This was about consumerism and the family.

This idea rooted from my observations. These being that most people in our society just have way too much stuff. I began my usual routine of research and started to notice way more articles about consumerism and the family than ever before. Had I stumbled upon another hot topic?

Articles and blogs about Minimalism, the American family’s over spending habits, the average family’s waste, kids who have too many toys… it went on and on. The question that kept running through my head though was how can I present this in a positive and respectful way and still address the excessiveness of most families in our culture?

Enter Jamie…the star of Too Many Things! and similar to Emma (my main character from Put Away Your Phone!) in that he’s bothered by his parent’s behavior and wants to do something to help them notice it and then change it. Like Emma, he wants to call them on their excessiveness, but in a more compassionate way. 


I think the message of Too Many Things! was a little subtler, but much more deep in meaning. I wanted Jamie to enlighten the child (and adult) reader on some of the facts about consumerism and inspire in them ways that they can be better consumers.

So many of the articles I read for my research were directed at the parents teaching their kids how to be Minimalists. This just didn’t make sense to me, so I switched it.

Until kids have to go without and/or are shown the imbalance of the distribution of “things” around the world, they can’t possibly understand what having just enough really means. Nor can they understand how great it feels to give away something they don’t need to someone who does until they do.

A few months before releasing Too Many Things! Hurricane Matthew hit and the eye of the storm landed a few miles from my home. Matthew left a path of destruction farther south of us, in the Caribbean and Haiti, but luckily my area made it through without too much damage or injury.


The worst we endured was a power outage for a little more than twenty-four hours which meant no water, no internet, and no coffee! First World problems. In some parts of the globe, Matthew took not just power lines, but he took lives too.

Going through something like this and watching the aftermath of the storm on the news made me feel so grateful for what we had been spared. It stirred a renewed appreciation for what other people have to go through in some of the less fortunate places in the world.

It reminded me that we are all in this together and at any moment it can be taken away from us and/or taken from those that we love. There couldn’t be a better time to release Too Many Things!

Shortly after Matthew, we saw an election. It was the messiest, most hateful election process that I think I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t feel like I’m alone in this thinking.  Some friendships were lost. Protesting sprung up everywhere around the nation about everything.

All around the world, it seems that people continue to grow a little more worried, scared and sad about the state of our nation and global affairs. Kids especially. The world is a very complicated place. Now, more than ever, they need to understand why it’s so complicated and they need to find a way to overcome this. We all do.

I wrote Being The Change In The World because I was driven to. I needed to. For my family, my friends, my community...for myself. I needed to process all the social issues, destruction, and hate. I needed to find a way to motivate change. I needed to inspire love and empower the next generation.

I needed to write my worries, fear, and sadness away so that I could wake up every day and see the world in a better way through love, kindness, empathy, and forgiveness.

I needed to spread a little mindfulness throughout the world…

for all of us.

Tracy Bryan writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families. 

Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and their second picture book together is called Too Many Things! Check out Tracy's latest book called Being The Change In The World.