A bear cub with past trauma learns to act bravely in Sinarski’s debut picture book.
Sometimes Riley struggles with “confusing things from his past that are hard to talk about.” He copes by exhibiting traits of other creatures, such as a tiger “using his claws…to scare other animals away.” Now, the cub acts bravely when he asks for help instead of curling up into his emotional “shell.” Riley enjoys playing with friends, and he works to determine with whom he feels safe. He also practices using words to express himself: “it might not sound like much to tell someone that you’re feeling mad or sad or scared, but Riley didn’t always get to have those feelings.” This book accessibly depicts the behaviors and struggles of traumatized children, although Riley’s backstory goes unexplained. Kids may not pick up on nuances; an adult may need to explain that Riley’s happy for extra snacks because he was once insecure about food or why an adopted bear has elephant parents. Kline’s illustrations will appeal to kids with their cheery colors. Some feature additional subtext; one depicts Riley crying as he explains that he’s mad. In an afterword for adults, the author includes specifics on interacting with children who’ve endured trauma.
A nicely illustrated book that tackles a tough topic in an approachable way.