Book review: Scary Sleepover, by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Mike Malbrough

Bernstein, Ariel. Scary Sleepover. Illustrated by Mike Malbrough. (Warren & Dragon series, book 4). Viking, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9780451481054. 90 Pages. Ages 6-10. P8 Q8 

What do you do when you have a fear and you are too embarrassed to tell your friend? Seven-year-old Warren has been invited to his friend Michael’s house for a sleep over. He fears that the scary stories will make him afraid and he will want to go home. Warren has a Dragon for a pet, but in reality, Dragon is a stuffed animal. With the help of his friend, Alison, he finds the courage to tell Michael how he feels. Will Michael make fun of him or understand? You will have to read the book to find out. The book has 12 short chapters, written from Warren’s point of view and is a quick read. Warren has a running outrageous word contest with Dragon throughout their adventures, which encourages readers to read nonsense words. When Warren refers to Dragon as his friend, the illustrations show Dragon larger than Warren. When other characters refer to Dragon, he is the size of a stuffed animal. Throughout the book , Michael refers to “one of his moms” which normalizes all types of families.

Verdict: Readers with fears or imaginary friends can relate to Warren. The theme of friendship, courage, imagination and respect come through clearly. LGBTQA+ inclusive with Michael having two moms. Readers will stay engaged and realize others have fears too. This is book 4 in the Warren & Dragon series, but it can easily stand alone. I highly recommend this book.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias, by Claire A.B. Freeland and Jacqueline B. Toner, illustrated by Janet McDonnell

Freeland, Claire A. B., and Jacqueline B. Toner. What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Illustrated by Janet McDonnell. (What-to-Do Guides for Kids series.) Magination Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781433829741. 88 pages. Ages 7-11. P7 Q7

This astronaut themed interactive self-help workbook uses a gentle, systematic way to deal with phobias through exposure therapy. It defines what a phobia is, why one might have a phobia, types of phobias and how phobias interfere with life. Throughout the eight chapters, the reader learns true emergencies from false alarms, how to get used to certain situations, how to gauge fear, planning for obstacles, and helpful/unhelpful self-talk. It explains how children feel in varying situations, including the sensations their body feels and what they might be thinking. Through exposure, one creates ladders to face their fears. The workbook includes space for children to write, draw, and circle how they are feeling. Some information is written in table format, which makes it easy to interact with. Adults can use this book to help a child understand their phobias and develop new ways of thinking. The black and white illustrations match the text, reinforcing what the author is writing about. It is not a flashy book that will captive the reader, but the information is helpful.

Verdict: The straight forward approach in this book helps children identify their triggers, false beliefs and how to face the fear those beliefs cause. My daughter has struggled with anxiety and OCD most of her life. She is an adult and skills trainer. She said the information is very helpful and she would use the book with her clients at a psychiatric residential treatment facility as a resource for lower functioning teenagers. She feels the book would have helped her deal with her anxiety when she was younger.

May 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Saturday Is Swimming Day, by Hyewon Yum

Yum, Hyewon. Saturday is Swimming Day. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780763691172. Unp. Ages 3-7. P7 Q7.

A small girl is taking swimming lessons. Every Saturday her stomach hurts as she anticipates her lesson. At first, her anxiety prevents her from actually getting in the water. However, she is given the opportunity to slowly gain confidence with her new pastime and the stomachache dissipates. Watery paints add texture to bright pencil illustrations of an inclusive cast of family member and swim students. The story teaches trust and patience to both children and the adults who support them in their new endeavors.

Verdict: Young readers will identify with the main character’s discomfort at trying something new. Adults should take a cue from the unobtrusive adults who encourage her to face her fears. This is a great resource for a child who is starting something new—especially swimming.

September 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Bunting, Eve. I’m a Duck. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Candlewick Press, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780763680329. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7Q8

A duck afraid to swim stars in this rhyming picture book. An egg has rolled from the nest, and mother duck dives into the pond to rescue it. Once hatched, the little duck is afraid of the water. The story features several pond friends who offer encouragement and confidence to little duck. Finally, with the backing of friends and family little duck conquers his fear and jumps in! Full color pages beautifully illustrate the pond setting.

VERDICT: I recommend this book for both home and classroom. It would be a great book for young ones not only learning how to swim, but overcoming any fear.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Can I tell you a secret?, by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

Kang, Anna. Can I tell you a secret? Illus. Christopher Weyant. Harper, 2016. unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-239684-6. Gr.K+. P8 Q8

A bright green frog engages the reader with a big “PSSST!” “Yes, You.” He hates to bother the reader but he needs help and he needs to speak to someone about his secret, “I can’t swim. I’m afraid of the water.” This is a great problem that frog has had since he was a “tadpole.” He has managed his problem through some very quick thinking. Though you never see the character who frog is speaking to you see the advice that is given. That advice, to talk to his parents. Frog does and finds out they have known all along and want to help. It is a big splash into the water with his friends that ends poor frog’s fear of water. He invites the reader to come back tomorrow. The artist, Weyan, used watercolor and ink to show how frog overcomes his fear of water. I laughed at some of frog’s quick thinking moments that kept him out of the water.

Verdict: Young children may have things that really frighten them. This book is one that could be used in a lesson to talk about their fears.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: There Might Be Lobsters, by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk

Crimi, Carolyn. There Might Be Lobsters. illus. Laurel Molk. Candlewick Press, 2017. unp. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-7542-4. Gr. K+. P8 Q8

Sukie is a young puppy who really does not want to go to the beach. There are many things on the beach that frighten Sukie.  Eleanor, Sukie’s owner, finally carries her down the stairs and deposits her on the beach. Still afraid, Sukie cannot play no matter how much Eleanor tries to engage her. When Chunka Munka, Sukie’s rag monkey, is carried out into the ocean it is Sukie who finds the courage to rescue it. Molk’s illustrations are done in watercolor, acrylic, and pen ink, depicting a warm day on the beach. I loved Sukie’s forlorn face  when she looks at the beach. You can tell she does not want to be there.

Verdict: If you are planning an excursion to the beach, this book could be read aloud to a class. Beach safety and what to expect while on the beach are discussions that could arise after you read it.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and other Tourist Attractions, by Lenore Look, pictures by LeUyen Pham

Look, Lenore. Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions. (Alvin Ho series, book 6)  Pictures by Pham, LeUyen.  Random House Children’s Books,  2014.  $15.99. ISBN 978-0-385-36972-5. 163 pgs.  6-10 years of age. Includes glossary. P9/Q8 

look-allergic-to-the-great-wallAnother story in the Alvin Ho series.  This time Alvin is heading to China and dealing with his fears of flying, heights, being crowded (China has a huge population), and the fear of the unexpected being in another country. The Alvin Ho series is funny and authentic.  The story shares about the Great Wall, the Clay Soldiers and references Chinese foods and some Chinese words as well.  In the back is a glossary that explains what some of the words mean. Readers will be entertained and also be exposed to Chinese culture.

October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.