CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 11. . . .November 17, 2017
How To Be Brave.
Nancy Wilcox Richards. Illustrated by Mathieu Benoit.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2017.
92 pp., trade pbk., $5.99.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Andrea Boyd.
The fort was dark. Daniel thought about the night light—turned off on the other side of the room. He switched on the flashlight. I think we should sleep with the light on in case you need to get a drink of water in the middle of the night, he said. And for good measure he added, Because my room is really, really dark.
Daniel and Fiona may be twins, but their personalities are drastically different. Fiona loves summer. Daniel wishes that winter could last forever. Fiona watches all sorts of movies. Daniel would rather spend his spare time playing his guitar. Fiona is a risk-taker. Daniel's nerves often get the best of him. The story is told from the perspective of eight-year-old Daniel who, in the narrative, admits to his negative thoughts and worries.
The fears that Daniel has are common for many youth, including being the new kid at school, presenting in front of an audience, and the natural fear of admitting to any of them. Everyone compares themselves to others, but Daniel feels even worse about himself because he is always around his twin sister, whom he nicknamed "fearless Fiona", and who effortlessly does things that Daniel loses sleep stressing over. All he wishes for on his eighth birthday is to be more brave and fearless like Fiona.
Daniel is shocked and relieved when his new best friend, Andrew, openly reveals that he shares the same worries that Daniel had been hiding. It is during an unplanned sleepover at Daniel's house that Andrew admits he can only sleep with a night light on and that he gets homesick on sleepovers, too. When the boys both get scared from a recurring noise coming from the closet, Daniel surprises himself when he steps out of their fort to see what the noise was in the closet. It turned out to be his cat, Mittens, scratching inside the closet door. This event makes Daniel realize that he is capable of conquering any of his fears. It just takes the courage to make the initial first step towards approaching it.
How To Be Brave is an excellent text for young readers who are transitioning into reading chapter books. Wilcox Richards spaces out the lines in a way which makes the text easy to read and which includes black-and-white drawings on most pages, thereby reducing the amount of text per page. The words in the story are not overly complex. Though the outcome of the story seems somewhat obvious, the unfolding events within the story were not as predictable as one may assume. This adds to the suspense and makes the story more interesting to read. How To Be Brave is recommended for a young audience that enjoys reading realistic fiction with a storyline that is relatable.
Andrea Boyd is an early years educator in Winnipeg, MB.
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University of Manitoba
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