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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I Used to Be Afraid, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Singer. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 3 and up

"I used to be afraid
but not anymore.

I used to be afraid
of the DARK
but not anymore.

I used to be afraid
of making a mistake
but not anymore."

Superb artwork is a trademark of the books created by the talented and thoughtful Ms. Seeger. I have a copy of every one of them, and they will always be a part of our family's collection. I am anxious to share these books with my granddaughter as she grows and becomes more interested in the imaginative illustrations that center on small children, helping to build their vocabulary and understanding. Blessed we are to have such a talent writing books with children fully in mind!

The girl on the cover shows us clearly just exactly what fear looks like for a little one. Her mouth is wide open, her eyes terrified and she seems unsure whether she wants us to open the book for all to see. Bravery prevails, and she lets the audience know that she once had many fears: spiders, the dark, shadows being just a few. As she names her fears, she assures those of us sharing this thoughtful and empowering book that she is no longer afraid. There are good reasons for that ... have you seen a spider's web? Did you know that your hands can make quite wonderful shadows? Only in the darkness can we see stars!

Perfectly placed die-cuts add a hint of mystery before allowing the little one to explain why her fears have abated. My favorite two pages allow for the fear of being alone, until the she notices what is in the red wagon that is at the edge of her playground ... a load  of books to be her companions throughout an otherwise lonely day. Who could be lonely with books to read? At the end fear of her brother, which remains constant, is accompanied by a spread that shows she may have an ace up her sleeve.

The colors are intense, the images textured and the message is honest. Ms. Seeger uses acrylic paint and collage to bring a freshness to the age old story of being fearful. We all have fears, and at some point, we realize that many can be faced and conquered. Can you feel a conversation about to start? I think that I can.

Have you ever been afraid?

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