Max, a formerly anxious bookmark, shares their journey to find strategies to manage their fear of the scary pictures in books.
Stylized mixed-media illustrations create an air of whimsy and encouragement in an artistic style reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers’: Scribbled lines pop against generous white space and a muted, textured color palette. Repetitive and at times rhyming, the text builds a rhythm that lends itself to read-alouds, especially for educators with students who seem to have difficulty regulating fear-related emotions. The text depicts Max’s instinctive panic response before they demonstrate the three Navy SEAL approaches to fear taught at Bookmark School: “Breathe deeply,” “Make a plan,” and “Think good thoughts.” Typography is utilized well here: The words “RULES AND TOOLS,” which serve as a shorthand for the Navy SEAL strategies, are distinguished from the rest of the text by traditional serif type, while the words “SCARIEST pictures” appear in larger nonserif type. Attired in a jaunty red cap with a yellow tassel, Max is a peachy pink bookmark, while their unnamed trainer is a deep red color with a long, blue queue-like tassel and dramatically sloping eyebrows (unfortunately calling to mind problematic, one-sided depictions of Asian characters skilled in mindfulness and martial arts).
An ambitious blending of emotional and psychological tools with fantasy that will serve the right reader well. (authors’ note) (Picture book. 5-8)