I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published September 27th 2017
Fan Those Fears Away
As a writer for children, I'm fortunate to be immersed in a world of the imagination and creativity. I read and review a lot of wonderful books for kids and young adults, including works by independent authors. Every so often though, a new release comes along and REALLY stands out. If it captures my imagination, I'll read it to my pre-school-aged son and if he sits still long enough for me to read it, it usually goes on high-rotation at bedtime.
Avalon Community Library and Beachside Bookshop hosted The Scared Book's latest reading event
The Scared Book, written by Debra Tidball and illustrated by Kim Siew (published by Lothian Children's Books), is one such book that has captured our collective imaginations. It's Sydney author has been out and about on the launch trail, making appearances at local bookshops and school events. It was at an Avalon Community Library school holiday reading time session, organised by Beachside Bookshop, that I was introduced to the book's magic effect on kids.
The book has shades of the Sesame Street classic, The Monster at the End of this Book (by Jon Stone), in that it uses the meta fiction construct perfectly. This means that the narrator acknowledges that they are in a book and the reader is invited to venture inside the book with them, a clever and increasingly popular, postmodern literary device.
Tidball's natural storytelling ability is matched by The Scared Book's engaging subject matter
The premise of The Scared Book is that the narrator is too scared to tell the story. It's because of the anxiety he/she feels at the thought of there being monsters in the book. On the surface, it has all the elements of a page-turner for pre-schoolers: - interactivity on every page ("Can you scratch the tingle in my spine for me?"), humour (smelly monsters) and AMAZING illustrations but the book is also working on a subliminal level, which should make it a favourite for parents and teachers.
With a theoretical and practical understanding of childhood anxiety, Tidball deals beautifully with this sensitive issue. She imparts real coping strategies on every page, in the guise of playful scenarios, such as blowing away the giant butterflies tickling the narrator's insides. The concept of monsters is a scary one for most kids but in this book, they are a metaphor for the fears that can undermine a child's sense of well-being. The narrator provides some simple but effective techniques for facing your fears and restoring a sense of calm and relaxation. For any parents or educators with experience of early-onset anxiety disorders, this book is a terrific teaching tool and I now have one or two more tricks up my sleeve for dealing with my son's more hyperactive tendencies.
Eager young fans took turns blowing the anxious tummy butterflies away
And like all the very best children's books, though it might deal with a subject that will heighten the reader's excitement temporarily, the development of the narrative and the interactive devices, will have children feeling a sense of resolution by the end. They'll be able to go to sleep with the satisfaction that they have frightened the ghouls away.
In the lead-up to Christmas, booksellers will be tempting us with an explosion of brilliant new book titles for kids but if you're looking for a sure-fire hit that has guaranteed kid appeal for the under 5s, I have no hesitation recommending The Scared Book.
A great story time session involves fun games and interactivity for the kids
And if this type of book sounds appealing, you might like to try another 'high-rotation' picture book with similar ability to delight and enthral little readers – Scary Night by another local Sydney author, Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (published by Working Title Press).