It’s So Difficult (Before and After Breakfast)

h1 March 8th, 2022 by jules

(Click spread to enlarge)


The endpapers of It’s So Difficult (Eerdmans, March 2022) — written and illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi (also known as Guridi), originally released in Spain in 2020, and translated by Lawrence Schimel — depict a ledger filled with rows and rows of numbers. And that’s because the story’s protagonist, a child, finds it relaxing to count things or calculate numbers. And those attempts at relaxation are necessary, because …

When I leave the house, everything is difficult for me. I feel a prickling that won’t go away, and every step I take is a triumph.

The child heads to school, Guridi’s scratchy, often broken lines communicating the unease felt and showing readers how the world appears from the point of view of someone anxious about socializing. The text (with the exception of two spreads) is placed on intermittent black spreads with white font — and no illustrations. We see the child pass the baker, who says “hello.” On the next spread we read that “I’d like to say ‘hello’ to the baker,” but it’s “so difficult to speak.” So the child starts counting things again. The next spread shows the page fill with calculations (though the child also finds it “so difficult to concentrate”). Arriving at school is “always complicated.” It’s loud, and though the child knows everyone’s names, it’s difficult to say them aloud.

There’s mention of an understanding mother, who tells the child to be patient and that words will come in time. But the child even notes older people “who can’t say what they feel or what they think. People who prefer not to speak or smile.” The final spread, which is actually pictured below, conveys a breakthrough of sorts, one small moment of triumph. When you click on that spread to enlarge it, you may have to squint to see it, but the child releases a tiny, scratchy “hi” — to the surprise of the baker. What happens from there is up to readers’ imaginations.

It’s an affecting story that sensitively captures how loud, overstimulating, and overwhelming the world feels for some children. And Guridi communicates this with remarkably expressive and spare linework and touches of color. Here are a couple more spreads so that the art can do the talking.


(Click spread to enlarge)


“Right now, my hands are sweating. It’s hard for me to breathe. But, this time,
I’m going to manage to do it … But … It’s just that … It’s so difficult …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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IT’S SO DIFFICULT. Text and illustrations © 2020 Raúl Nieto Guridi. Copyright © 2020 Tres Tigres Tristes, an imprint of Publicaciones Ilustradas TTT, S.L. Originally published in Spain under the title Lo dificil. English-language translation © 2022 Lawrence Schimel. First published in the United States in 2022 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Eerdmans.

2 comments to “It’s So Difficult (Before and After Breakfast)”

  1. […] Seven impossible things before breakfast – It’s So Difficult by Gurudi, translated by Lawrence Schimel, (Eerdmans). Review by Julie Danielson […]

  2. […] Seven impossible things before breakfast – It’s So Difficult by Gurudi, translated by Lawrence Schimel, (Eerdmans). Review by Julie Danielson […]

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