STARRED REVIEW
September 29, 2015

Conquer those fears

By Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Review by

Award-winning author-illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger tells a story of childhood fears in her newest picture book, starring a young protagonist who looks life’s scary things right in the eyes.

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Award-winning author-illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger tells a story of childhood fears in her newest picture book, starring a young protagonist who looks life’s scary things right in the eyes. She manages to find wonder where she once saw worry, such as marveling in the shimmering web of a scary spider. She learns that a friend can help keep fears and loneliness at bay, whether that friend is a beloved pet or a stack of storybooks. Even the scary shadows of her room become happy moments. It’s all in how you look at it—and where you place yourself in the light.

Using acrylic paints, collage and cleverly placed die cuts, Seeger reveals surprises via compelling page turns. The colors are rich, and there is a real texture to the artwork, with spider webs that nearly look 3-D and tree bark that looks like the real thing.

This story, however, is about more than just fears of the dark or the fear of arachnids. The girl is also afraid of change and possesses the vulnerabilities of someone afraid to get hurt, as many children do. For instance, she used to be afraid of merely “making a mistake but not anymore.” When her friend leaves, she conquers her fear of solitude with a wagon full of books. In the end, she wisely acknowledges that some things are always scary. Here, her brother may chase her with a scary mask, but revenge is sweet when she gets hold of the same mask later. But big brothers are also sweet, as readers see them playing happily on the final page.

Honest and straightforward, this is an engaging read for young children, especially those experiencing big transitions in life. Never fear: This is a book well worth your time.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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Get the Book

I Used to Be Afraid

I Used to Be Afraid

By Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook
ISBN 9781596436312

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