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Friday, July 5, 2013

Noni Is Nervous, written by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by Genevieve Cote. Tundra Books, 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Noni bites her nails.
Noni twirls her hair.
And she talks nonstop
to calm her nerves.

Her mama tells her to take
her fingers out of her mouth.
Her papa tells her to get her
hands out of her hair.
And her little brother tells her
to stop going on and on...."

You might remember Noni (Noni Says No, 2011) and her encounter with a friend who really liked being the boss. It took bravery on Noni's part to finally put her foot down, and do what she wanted to do without persistent guidance from Susie.

In this book about the fears that come as a new year at school begins, Noni has many questions and concerns. Her parents offer reassurance. Her little brother is not quite so accommodating with his advice as you can see from the quote above. He does just what most little brothers would do!

She wonders what to wear for her first day of school, and where she will find a seat when she reaches the classroom, and if her teacher will like her; those are just her school fears. She also worries about global warming, and what it will be like the next time she plays with bossy Susie. There is no end to her misgivings. Fear is a way of life with Noni...thunderstorms, unfamiliar neighborhood dogs, monsters under her bed. At home, she was always comforted.

The first day is a trial, and she shares with her family that in worrying about so much, she forgot to learn anything new! Her parents encourage her to be patient and to practice being more comfortable with the changes. A new day dawns, Noni tries to take that advice. Noni speaks to her bus mate Briar, helping to assuage some of  those anxious feelings. As with most things that we try despite our apprehensions, the second day is much better and, at the end of it, it is up to Noni to allay her parents' fears for her!

Genevieve Cote's watercolor illustrations are expressive and give young readers a real sense of the anxiety that Noni is feeling as she approaches her new year in a new place, with a new teacher and new classmates. You can see and feel her twisting her hair, and biting her nails, and worrying herself into blushing cheeks. All of that changes with time.

Very real and oh, so charming!   

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