It’s So Difficult – Guridi

It's So Difficult by Raúl Nieto Guridi, Lawrence Schimel
Also by this author: Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile, One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain, Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War, Madani's Best Game, 9 Kilometers
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2022

A school day can be so overwhelming: so many people, so many noises, so many things to remember. Grown-ups say it’ll get easier with time, but even saying hello is incredibly hard. Thank goodness for comforts like math, for anything that can relax a restless mind. Maybe this time a few words will come out at last…
An empathetic look at anxiety and overstimulation, It’s So Difficult follows a child throughout the challenging routines of a single day. Even the smallest step forward can be an enormous triumph. 

This is a book that I felt viscerally, deep inside me. it’s so difficult follows the story of a person who struggles to participate in society. The first words of the book read “When I leave the house, everything is so difficult for me.” The minimalistic, messy, scribbled illustrations give weight to that statement, as readers can visualize that struggle. The pages of text are full black with white text, starkly highlighting the contrast between the narrator’s inner monologue and inability to communicate with the outside world.

As the story progresses, the narrator says that she wishes she could talk to other people. To say hi to her neighbor, to the baker, to compliment anyone…but it’s just so difficult. I count things until I reach the sign for the 21 bus stop…counting things or calculating relaxes me. And then for pages we get an illustration of that text, as we see the narrator cope in a world that’s alien and uncomfortable for them.

Even as the book ends, there’s no grand resolution. No big breakthrough. The author leaves us with a cliffhanger. But, this time, I’m going to manage to do it…But…it’s just that…It’s so difficult… And then the book ends without telling us the ending, leaving us to imagine and speculative and discuss.

it’s so difficult is more than a story. It’s a vibrant and insightful look into the inner life of those who struggle to communicate in society, for whatever reason. Autistic individuals or those with anxiety may find themselves seen and understood in these pages, meaning that it also helps the neurotypical emphasize and understand. Guridi emphasizes that the people, the noises, the things one needs to remember—it can all be so overwhelming. He validates that struggle, encouraging readers to take even the smallest step forward and then celebrating it for the triumph it is.

As the dad of an autistic child, one who did not speak at all until he was older and still rarely speaks to strangers or in social settings, I cannot tell you many myriad emotions swirled within me as I read this book. Sadness, to understand my child’s plight. Joy, to know that he was seen and understood by someone. Thankfulness, that I could use this book as a tool to talk to him about social interactions.

So many children’s books are just there for simple moral lessons, mindless fun, or commercials for other media. it’s so difficult tackles a nuanced, personal, and deep theme and captures it perfectly in every way.