4 out of 4 stars
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Did you have a basement in your house as a child? Do you remember peering down the darkened stairs, too short to reach the light switch, and shuddering in fear of what…or who…might be down there waiting to get you and gobble you up? In I’m Not Afraid, by Raya, Shelly Fox knows exactly what that feels like.
Shelly’s favorite red ball has bounced down the basement stairs and into the gloom where the monsters live. She tries to retrieve it herself, bravely chanting, “I am not afraid,” as she tiptoes down the first stair…then the second. But by the third stair, she is overwhelmed by fright. Crying, she runs to hide in the living room, still trying to convince herself that she is not afraid. With a little imagination and ingenuity, Shelly’s Dad will teach her that there’s a little superhero inside us all. Will it be enough to help her get her beloved ball back?
There is much to love about this book. The illustrations are (for the most part) bright and cheerful – a surefire way to catch a child’s attention. That said, the illustrator also did a fantastic job of contrasting light and shadows to catch the emotions being felt at any given moment. For example, when Shelly is peering down into the basement, the illustrator uses jagged shadows to indicate her fear. Behind her, where safety lies, is a beautiful, calming blue. The ‘monsters’ lie in shadow with (somewhat hilarious) ‘threatening’ expressions on their fuzzy faces. There is also a wonderful match between the author’s story and the expressions on each main character’s face. Clearly, the author and the illustrator worked closely together.
Honestly, I found little to dislike about this book. I did have the passing thought that some of today’s children, with our focus on technology and flashlights on our phones, might have trouble relating to Shelly’s problem. After all, you can just ask Alexa (or Google) to turn on the light. However, I think the basic message of being afraid of the dark unknown will still resonate with most children today.
Aside from finding two minor errors, there were no problems with the narrative at all. Overall, for the excellent melding of writing and illustration, as well as the underlying message that we all have strength hidden within us, I rate the book a resounding 4 out of 4 stars. Although the book is officially recommended for ages six through ten, I believe that children as young as three would enjoy and learn from the book if it is read with an adult.
I'm Not Afraid
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