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
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