This illustrated kids’ book will help young ones handle their panic.
Young Jack wishes he were brave enough to experience all life has to offer, especially now that the extended family has gathered at the beach for summer fun. While he waits in line to ride the giant roller coaster Big Red, panic overtakes him. Then, cool surfer cousin Clay admits that he, too, used to have multiple fears, until an “old surf pro” taught him the “Magic Finger Countdown.” Acknowledging that “everyone—even surf pros and cousins and your parents—get (sic) scared sometimes” and that “it’s totally OK not to feel OK sometimes,” Clay teaches Jack the MFC and assures him it can be applied to scary rides, killer waves and more. MFC fails to provide relief for Jack the first time around, but Clay assures him that practice makes perfect, and the next day, Jack returns to Big Red to banish his “scaredies.” Fiorile (a school psychologist) and McDonagh (who has a diploma in psychology) note in the foreword: “We have been conditioned to reassure children that their fears are not real…[b]ut those fears are very real to children.” If youngsters are taught to “develop a healthy internal strength,” their confidence will increase and they’ll be reassured “that they can handle each new, anxious situation they encounter”; from there, the authors say, “anxiety can be transformed into a sense of personal power.” The MFC technique, “rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy,” is explained in greater detail after the story (mostly for adults), and suggestions are offered to adapt the five steps for specific situations. Though no substitute for professional support and therapy, the book considers the familiar, dread-inspiring topics—taking tests, monsters in the closet, shadows on the wall, etc.—with an upbeat, reassuring tone. The simple steps for identifying, acknowledging and releasing fear offer a useful method for helping younger children move past panic into a place of confidence. Throughout, Alonso’s high-quality, vibrant illustrations provide an appealing mix of wide-eyed energy and bobble-headed attitude.
An adequate storyline combines with colorful cartoon characters in a tidy five-step program for anxious pre-adolescents.