It's Day 28 of Picture Book Month! Today I'm thinking about fears. This might seem like an odd topic when it relates to picture books, but some of the best picture books have really scary bits in them, and that's handled to various degrees by the kids who read them. Honestly, I find it's usually parents who have more issues with creepy parts of kids books, because they aren't sure how their little darling is going to handle it (and often kids are more okay with it than their parents are.)
But that's not really what I mean - in this instance I'm talking less about monsters and more about the kind of fear that's more intimidation, a fear of things or places that others are just fine with. Children's lit is full of examples where protagonists confronted something they were daunted by, and found a way to deal with it. While that might seem repetitious, it's important that kids see plenty of examples of friends, even fictional ones, who face their fears head on. That way we give them tools and strategies when they face their own trepidations, which they're bound to do.
Today's pick is one Sprout chose, and I think he likes it because the character is scared of new things, which Sprout himself tends to be. You're probably familiar with Anna Dewdney from her Llama Llama books (we find them deeply adorable), and that's why we initially checked out Roly Poly Pangolin, which Dewdney wrote and illustrated. A pangolin, if you don't know it, is an oddball little critter found in Africa and parts of Asia. Pangolins are covered in scales, which they use as a defense when they are scared - they roll into a ball so whatever threatens them is faced by their armor. Between that and the fact that they eat bugs (they have no teeth), Sprout finds them "weird and cool".
Dewdney cleverly turns the pangolin's defense system into a plot point. Our little friend Roly Poly doesn't like new things. He doesn't want to eat yucky bugs, he doesn't want to play with a friendly monkey, and he definitely doesn't want to find out what's making that scary noise in the forest. In running away from the noise, Roly Poly trips and stumbles into a ball, where he's most comfortable. But then Roly Poly decides to open his eyes just a bit, and what he finds is someone who's just like him!
As always, Dewdney's text is readable and relatable for even the youngest listeners, who will identify with Roly Poly's reluctance to try new things. And her art makes these strange little guys seem so appealing. Now we want to meet one in person! I can see a report on the pangolin coming up somewhere in our academic future. . . but in the meantime, we're thrilled to see yet another strong literary example of a character confronting his fears and coming out much the better for it.
Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney, published by Viking