Staff Picks for Children
In partnership with
Recommended by Melinda at Kendale Lakes Branch
The Darkest Dark
Written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion; illustrated by the Fan Brothers
Chris spends his days pretending to be an astronaut. With his trusty four‑legged sidekick Albert, he fights aliens—with Albert standing in for the aliens—and plans trips to Mars. Chris is so busy being an astronaut that he has no time to sleep, at least not in his own bed, because his room is where the aliens creep in in the dark, and non‑Albert aliens are scary (but not the dark). However, tonight, Chris must go to sleep because tomorrow is an important day, and if he is too tired, he will not be able to stay awake for it. After he braves the dark, alien‑infested room long enough to fall asleep, Chris dreams of a trip to the moon. The next day, his entire family goes over to the neighbors to watch the moon landing on television. Chris notices that space is a dark place, darker than his room. Moreover, if he wants to get there for real someday, he will have to overcome his fear.
Real‑life astronaut Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion team up to tell how Chris first began to dream about going to outer space and getting ready to go there. His author’s note explains about all of the classes and training he went through to get there, but the first step was getting over his fear of the dark. The Fan Brothers’ illustrations of the earthbound storyline are soft, and several have round, faded edges and backgrounds. The pages depicting outer space provide a rich, dark background to the action of either Chris or the moon landing.Check Availability
Let’s Go, Hugo!
Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Hugo is a bit of a different bird. He lives primarily on the ground and creates works of art, and has no interest in flying until he meets Lulu. When she recognizes Hugo’s newest art project as the Eiffel Tower, she tells Hugo they could go see it if they fly. Hugo tries to get his new friend to stay on the ground with him, but after a day spent entirely on the ground, she flies away, leaving Hugo feeling all alone. That night, Bernard the Owl hears Hugo crying, and when Hugo says he is afraid to fly, Bernard tells him that he was once scared of the dark. He had to work hard to overcome his fear because he was just missing too much, like the moon and the stars. So Hugo asks for help, and they spend the whole night together, learning how to fly, and getting Hugo to conquer his fears. When Lulu returns at dawn, Hugo is still afraid, until Lulu says they will be together exploring the sky, instead of the park. Therefore, with caution, Hugo takes Lulu’s wing, and they embark on their soaring adventure, where finally, the beauty of the Eiffel Tower makes Hugo forget to be scared.
Angela Dominguez’s writes a story of how adventure, exploration and the beauty of something new can work together to overcome the fear of the unknown. Her illustrations are bright and colorful, and keep the focus on the main characters with dark lines and sharp detail. She keeps the backgrounds soft, making them a whimsical contrast to Hugo, Lulu and Bernard.Check Availability
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff
Written by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Hyewon Yum
A fun story of a young boy who follows his father’s advice and makes a list all of the things he is scared of, and then faces his fears one by one, with the help of his friends Pug and Bull Terrier, the bravest dog ever.
The little boy is afraid of monsters, ghosts, witches and trolls. However, Bull Terrier keeps pointing out reasons not to be scared. As they add other frights to the list, Bull Terrier keeps responding positively to things the boy is scared of, until they get to the dark and it turns out it’s the one thing that makes Bull Terrier shiver! But the little boy shows Bull Terrier that where there is dark, they can add light, and Bull Terrier thanks him for saving him from the dark.
Emily Jenkins’s tale touches upon how children can be scared of things that go bump in the night as well as everyday things like big dogs, swimming and the dark. She uses Bull Terrier’s character to show that while some fears do not exist, there are ways to work around being scared of things that do. Hyewon Yum adds simple drawings and word text bubbles to make the book read more like a comic and make the conversation flow. The illustrations are simple and childlike in some areas, connecting the unnamed little boy and his fears more readily to the child reader.Check Availability
Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats
Written by Alicia Potter; illustrations by Birgitta Sif
Miss Hazeltine takes in shy and fearful cats, cats that are scared of everything and will not act like other cats. She spends her days taking care of them and teaching how to be, well, cats. There are lessons on bird basics, climbing up, climbing down, scary noises, meeting new friends, arching backs, pouncing and not fearing the broom. She also makes sure to love them and share that she is afraid of things too, like mushrooms, owls and the dark. Crumb the Cat listens to the lessons but does not participate. He only hopes to be brave one day and to thank Miss Hazeltine for all she has done for him and the other cats. One day, Miss Hazeltine runs out of milk and goes out to get more. Only Crumb sees her leave. On her way back, she falls in a ditch and hurts herself. She is alone, in the dark, surrounded by mushrooms and owls, and very, very scared. At home, the cats begin to worry. Crumb leads the search party, and they use every one of Miss Hazeltine’s lessons to find her and bring her back.
Alicia Potter has crafted a marvelous story about how one can learn to overcome their fears, but sometimes just needs a chance to act. Birgitta Sif provides gloriously detailed illustrations that seem to jump right off the page and lead you through the narrative. The backgrounds, when softened by light and darkness to indicate the time of day, do not diminish the details.Check Availability
The Terrible Plop
Written by Ursula Dubosarsky; illustrated by Andrew Joyner
There are six little rabbits eating chocolate cake and carrots next to a lake when a terrible plop sends them scurrying in fear. They run through the forest telling everyone about the awful noise, sending them tearing away in a panic as well. Soon, everyone in the woods is running, until they run past the bear. The group insults him by saying that the Terrible Plop is fierce and strong, maybe even stronger than he is. He grabs up the littlest, last rabbit and forces the scared bunny back to the lake to find this terrible plop, and they are there alone when it comes back. Little rabbit sees it for what it is and is not afraid anymore, but the bear runs away scared. And the newly brave bunny sits and enjoys the abandoned chocolate cake and carrots, thinking that everyone needs to stop running.
Ursula Dubosarsky writes a compelling story urging little readers not to let something scare them away, but face it head on, as they might find it’s not as scary as they thought. Andrew Joyner provides bold illustrations with dark lines, bright details and some mixed media highlights. The chocolate cake and bear’s glass are real‑life pieces added to the pictures, and the bear’s fur looks almost touchable. Emotions are the biggest draw as the bear shows his anger, then fear, and rabbit shows his fear, then confidence, in the end.Check Availability