I can't think of two people better suited to write and illustrate a book about scary things than the creators of Some Things Are Scary, which is newly out in PAPERBACK! (Caps and exclamation point because so few books are released in paperback anymore and even fewer are worth buying - this one is, though!) After all, Florence Parry Heide wrote The Shrinking of Treehorn, which is about a boy who discovers he's shrinking but the adults in his life will not take him seriously. Jules Feiffer, among many other great things, is a master picture book author, especially when it comes to the expression of emotions. In Bark George, Meanwhile..., I Lost My Bear, I'm Not Bobby, and My Side of the Car Feiffer captures emotions that range from apprehension to anxiety, from fear to grief, pain to joy. Some picture books have clever plots that build in suspense and have a great pay off at the end - David Ezra Stein's Interrupting Chicken immediately comes to mind. Some picture books are lists of things that make you take a new look at something that seemed obvious. Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Cookies books and her newest This + That are good examples of this kind of book. These are books that spark conversations and inspire thinking. Add to this list of list books Some Things Are Scary.
Some Things Are Scary begins, "Getting hugged by someone you don't like is scary." You can tell right away that Heide isn't scared to to talk about things that we all think but might not discuss in this book. She also has a way of remembering those things that were scary when we were kids and are still cringe inducing as adults, like the above scary thing, "stepping on something squishy when you are in your bare feet."
Heide also reminds us of the scary things that are also thrilling, like waiting to jump out and say BOO! as well as knowing that someone is out there waiting to jump out and say BOO! to you. Can you remember being on a swing when someone is pushing you too high? I can and my stomach clenches just thinking about it. How about being with your mother in a dark parking garage when she can't remember where she parked the car? Don't remember being in that spot as a child, but definitely as an adult...
Heide also reminds us of the things that are scary-sad, like discovering that your hamster cage is empty. Or scary-uncomfortable, like "having to tell someone your name and they can't understand you and you have to spell it." She ups the ante with, "knowing your parents are talking about you and you can't hear what they are saying." Feiffer's illustration for this "scary" brilliant, with a boy in his bed and the covers up around his ears while his eyes go huge, his parents leaving his room and about to shut the door. Sometimes fear is an emotion that we forget to talk about with our children - it can dissipate so quickly or change into another emotion as we try to cope with it. I think that a book like Some Things Are Scary presents the perfect opportunity to being discussing this wide ranging, sometimes all encompassing feeling of fear and maybe even begin to give our little ones tools for addressing it - and sometimes addressing it alone is enough to diffuse fear. I am always complaining about the heavy handed didactic picture books published for kids, especially those written by celebrity authors who want to teach children important "life lessons." I wish that these "authors" (or maybe just their editors) would read a book like Some Things Are Scary and attempt to grasp the subtle genius and value of a story like this.
And, while I never remember thinking this as a child it makes sense now that I am an adult, Heide ends the book with this thought, "knowing that you're going to grow up and be a grownup is scary."