***** Alexander / Goodreads.com
Julian Reeve’s new book, Captain Perfection & The Secret of Self Compassion: A Self-Help Book for The Young Perfectionist, is essential reading for people of all ages. Despite its surface-level design and appeal for young readers, oddly enough there’s something even for adults to learn from its literal, illustrated depictions that highlight something far more societally intangible than any of us would like to admit. Reeve, a celebrated music director for the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton, describes himself as an innate perfectionist. Needless to say, he is an expert authority on how to compartmentalize the success-savvy parts of the brain so one can continue said success while living a wholesome and healthy lifestyle. This adds a significant poignancy to the book, as in spite of its stylistic choices it doesn’t treat its immediate target audience as unthinking, or fundamentally unformed. The book makes the reader’s experience constantly interactive, effectively blending evocative illustration with hands-on analogous examples coupled with a series of checklists. The book and its titular analogical protagonist are a welcome relief from the typical, sophomoric humor model commonly associated with cartoons aimed at children. Striking examples of these tactics include a series of precepts following a young boy named Jack’s success with a class picture. How many books for young people can you name that so beautifully articulate statements like, You are not alone – some of your friends might be perfectionists too and We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, because we are unique, and our work is not meant to be like everyone else’s?
As much as Reeve’s book individually is a lovely new insular conversation to introduce to children, there is something to be said about the greater context which makes it so significant. The fact it takes a children’s book to articulate clearly and concisely issues related to mental health, OCD, and repetitive and fastidious behavior says we are still a long way from achieving a true capstone in normalizing non-physical and emotive issues. While the high-functioning aspects of said spectrums have resulted in some of our greatest minds and success stories of all time, they’ve also been used as tools of shame and alienation from the general community. Yet the simultaneous silver lining is books like Reeve’s Captain Perfection targeting children, inspiring young minds to see the forest for the trees and buck standard, stereotyping behaviors that can marginalize even those who take societal levels to new extremes. As far as preceding generations have to go in terms of acceptance, hope lies with the generations coming after them with the inspiration and lifelong lessons bestowed upon them by leading members of those preceding generations. The more one continues to humanize what one calls ‘differences’ or at worst ‘psychosis’, the better off all of us may be. After all, in the spirit of the book, comedian Robin Williams once famously quipped: You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
Amen to that!
***** Colin Jordan / Medium
With his creation of the titular protagonist in Captain Perfection & The Secret of Self Compassion: A Self-Help Book for The Young Perfectionist, acclaimed Broadway music director Julian Reeve has done something extraordinary. Very often analogous figures serving as some sort of metaphorical icon, particularly when it comes to children’s books, have to have one foot firmly planted in the outsider movement. But what of a protagonist who can serve as a role model for the many, not just the select few? That’s part of what makes Reeve’s overall point with Captain Perfection so striking. Tackling an issue often swept under the societal rug of alleged issues or conditions, he shows that this is a trait not only many people possess but also — with the right amount of leverage — holds the keys to success.
MORE ON JULIAN REEVE: https://julianreeve.com/
By making a characterization of commonplace anxieties and fears something that represents all people, he shows the traits making up so-called perfectionism are nothing to be ashamed of, while simultaneously something those troubled by should regard as a gift. Part of how Reeve articulates this is by showing the concepts of ‘success’ and ‘perfection’ are subjective, and attaining such goals truly begins primarily by recognizing the strengths and weaknesses within yourself. Aiming such a philosophy at children through a medium they can understand, the beneficial effects are two-fold. Firstly, they inspire the overachieving child to have perspective and confidence, while simultaneously enabling them to pass on such knowledge in future years that can positively impact those around them and their communities at large.
Reeve’s strength as a storyteller is paramount here, the playful and cartoonish illustrations helping to literally drive home the points he makes about maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a perfectionist. The drawings themselves are quite remarkable, even by adult standards, as they simplify otherwise complex perspectives and ruminations even so-called ‘grownups’ have a hard time articulating, let alone in a way that is personable and raw. In an era where division has proven to be number one in terms of media coverage and clickbait, there is hope yet when things like Reeve’s Captain Perfection reach such large audiences. The issues he covers are universal, and in that universality lies the ability to inherently connect. It will be fun to see where the book lies in terms of status in the next ten years.
Frankly, it deserves much more recognition that it’s initially received now. As a creative person, Reeve seems to have his finger on the pulse of young people. His empathetic and rich way of saying so much through deceptively simple and evocative prose makes him belong in a deeper, Shel Silverstein-esque sort of camp. It’s something that we haven’t seen for some time, and coming from the likes of him is a welcome relief from otherwise sophomoric entries in the field of children’s entertainment.