Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff review from Horn Book

A child shares with his two chatty dogs the list he wrote of things that scare him: monsters, ghosts, witches, trolls. The pug seems sympathetic, but the self-proclaimed “bravest dog ever” bull terrier is unfazed and unimpressed: “You keep being scared of stuff that probably doesn’t exist…I’m just saying.” So, fine, the child starts listing real-life things: his cousin, the school crossing guard, swimming pools, sharks. Again, no sympathy: “Hee hee! Scared of the crossing guard” (says the bull terrier, ROFL). When it comes to the dark, though, even a too-cool-for-school canine can turn into a scaredy cat: “Okay. Now that’s a little scary…Actually, REALLY SCARY.” The bull terrier’s fear pushes the boy to take charge and face his demons, coming up with a simple solution that sheds some light on the subject of irrational fears. Jenkins’s text appears almost entirely in conversation bubbles that contain the child’s fear-based logic, the bull terrier’s blasé sarcasm, and occasional gratifying instances of warmth between them. In Yum’s expressive illustrations, varied and with lots of white space, the scary things are not that scary but neither are they so silly as to be making fun of the protagonist (that’s the dog’s job). And, sure, it’s rewarding to see that bull terrier get the smug scared right out of him, but more rewarding is the boy’s realization that he can be brave—and that everyone gets the willies. elissa gershowitz

★ another starred review from SLJ

★ JENKINS, Emily. The Fun Book of Scary Stuff. illus. by Hyewon Yum. 32p. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374300005. [SLJ September]
K-Gr 2–A mop top child makes a list of everything that frightens him and shares it with his two dogs. The usual nebulous suspects such as monsters, ghosts, and witches are included, along with more specific terrors such as a nasty cousin who has a penchant for putting ice cubes down the boy’s pants, and a bossy crossing guard. The comical back-and-forth banter between the blustery bull terrier (“When did you see trolls?”) and the apprehensive little boy (“Um. Never.”) is presented in speech bubbles, with the scrappy pug also chiming in. The terrier pokes holes in all of the itemized fears, until “the dark” is mentioned, prompting the pooch to concede, “Okay. Now that’s a little scary.” When all the lights go out, the trio band together in support and finds a solution. In Yum’s wispy, pencil and watercolor illustrations, emotions are clearly conveyed, from closed-eyed bravado to nail-biting dread. VERDICT A not-so-scary look at talking about and tackling fears together.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada