This depiction rings true in its portrayal of the paralysis of fear and the power of the right circumstances to motivate...


George’s fear of the dark is clear from the cover, where the bedsheets are drawn up to his nose; young listeners will want to know if this ends well.

In the daylight, the blond protagonist is fearless. He scales tall trees, rescues damsels in distress and downs insects in a single gulp. The darkened bedroom, however, has him quivering at the threshold. Valentine creates just the right balance of humor and sympathy around her character. Readers will chuckle at his rigid body—parallel to the floor, as his father attempts to pry him from the door—and at the whites of his terrified eyes in the total blackness of the next spread. The gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations are rendered with visible graphite strokes for these nighttime scenes. This choice adds to the tension on pages where familiar objects appear to have menacing expressions. George’s teddy bear and pajamas (both red) stand out, so when he accidently tosses his blanket-wrapped companion across the room during the climax, observant viewers will know something before George does. The boy’s empathy for another (his bear is scared too) prompts him to summon his courage, venture past the shark-shaped laundry basket and conquer his debilitating emotions.

This depiction rings true in its portrayal of the paralysis of fear and the power of the right circumstances to motivate change. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-449-81334-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.


Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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