When I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book advertised, I couldn’t wait to find, read and review it. I hope you find it as captivating as I did!
Title: Me and My Fear
Written & Illustrated By: Francesca Sanna
Publisher/Date: Flying Eye Books (an imprint of Nobrow Ltd.)/September 2018
Suitable for Ages: 5+
Themes/Topics: fear; immigrant; moving; empathy
I have always had a secret. A tiny friend called Fear.
When a young girl and her family arrive in a new country, the girl’s fear grows and keeps her from making friends and adjusting to her new life, until she realizes that she’s not the only one with fear.
Links to Resources:
- Sometimes we all are afraid. What scares you? What do you do when you’re scared?
- How do you welcome newcomers to your neighborhood or school? Try one or more of the 20 Simple Acts to learn more about refugees or help one or more of them feel welcome;
- See the Classroom Guide for more ideas.
Why I Like this Book:
With warm, retro-feeling illustrations and short text, Sanna personifies the fear that everyone experiences at times in a very kid-relatable way. As the story begins, Fear is a “tiny friend”, a helpful being that keeps the unnamed MC safe. But after “we came to this new country,” Fear grows and keeps the girl from experiencing the new neighborhood and making friends at school. It’s Fear that “hates” the new school, that “grows angry” when the girl’s name is mispronounced, that keeps the girl alone at break times. Through sharing art with another student, though, the young girl begins to reach out and then discovers that others have their own fears. As she does so, Fear reverts to its old, smaller self as “school is not so difficult anymore”.
I think Me and My Fear will help kids who experience fear in unfamiliar situations understand that they aren’t alone. It also will help other kids empathize with newcomers or those who keep to themselves, when they understand that it may be fear that holds these loners back. While the young MC is a newcomer to a country and school, I think the story will resonate with others, too, as they face any new situations.
Sanna’s warm color palate and the rounded curves she uses to depict Fear exude a feeling of comfort.
A Note about Craft:
As in her debut picture book, The Journey, Sanna has chosen to not name the Main Character, thus providing an Everyman-type of story. She also uses first-person point of view which, I think, brings an immediacy to the story. Interestingly, the MC in Me and My Fear is the same MC as in The Journey, so that this book is, in effect, a continuation of the refugee’s journey.
An illustrator-author, Sanna tells much of the story in illustrations only, and it’s a low word-count picture book. Sanna pictures Fear as a ghost-like creature, similar, in my mind, to Beekle, in Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. By making Fear a character, Sanna can show readers how Fear accompanies the young girl, demonstrate how it grows, and even, in one full-page spread, show how the MC must carry Fear on her back.
When I first read the title, Me and My Fear, I was a bit perplexed. Wouldn’t “I and My Fear,” or “My Fear and Me” be more grammatically correct? But then it struck me: the title hearkens back to an old song title: Me and My Shadow. It thus puts the MC’s experience into context: Fear has accompanied people throughout history and in many places, and it continues to do so.
From the publisher’s website, I learned that Me and My Fear “is based on research that creator Francesca Sanna did in classrooms—asking children to draw their fears and encouraging them to talk about what made them afraid.” I also learned that Amnesty International has endorsed it.
The publisher, Flying Eye Books (FEB, for short), “is the children’s imprint of award-winning visual publishing house Nobrow. Established in early 2013, FEB sought to retain the same attention to detail in design and excellence in illustrated content as its parent publisher, but with a focus on the craft of children’s storytelling and non-fiction.”
Visit Sanna’s website to see more of her work, including illustrations from The Journey, one of the first picture books to shed light on the current refugee crisis in Europe.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!