Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Written by: Maya Angelou

Illustrated by: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Edited by: Sara Jane Boyers

For Ages: 4 and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Courage, Fear, Social-Emotional Learning.

Summary: This book is the poem of the same title by Maya Angelou, coupled with the profound paintings of Basquiat.  By having the illustrations fairly abstract, it allows the reader to transpose their own life onto the lines of the story.  The line “life doesn’t frighten me” appears often, creating the ability for students to repeat out-loud and use almost as a mantra to build courage.  Some lines are more tangible fear, such as a new classroom.  Some lines are more whimsical, about fearing a fire-breathing dragon outside the window.  Overall, an important story for young children about being brave and a fantastic addition to any collection!

My class of 4-5year olds really connected with this story, and wanted to hear it over and over.  It’s a great introduction to social-emotional learning as well as poetry and prose.  The simple lines can provide many opportunities for conversations, and is easily memorized by young children.

Reflection Questions:

  • What scares you?
  • How have you overcome a fear in the past?
  • How could you help a friend that was feeling afraid of something?
  • Who helps you feel less afraid?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have children draw creatures that can defeat their fears.  Have them draw themselves being brave with their creature!
  • Try writing a poem as a class, or in small groups.  Do you want to use rhyming words?  What will your poem be about?  Explore different styles of poetry and decide which type you like best!

About the Author, the Illustrator & Editor:

maya angelou
Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4th, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. Maya Angelou became one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. With over 50 honorary doctorate degrees Dr. Maya Angelou became a celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. In the late 1950’s Maya Angelou joined the Harlem Writer’s Guild. With the guidance of her friend, the novelist James Baldwin, she began work on the book that would become I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Published in 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings received international acclaim made the bestseller list. The book was also banned in many schools during that time as Maya Angelou’s honesty about having been sexually abused opened a subject matter that had long been taboo in the culture. Later, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings would become a course adoption at college campuses around the world. With more than 30 bestselling titles, Maya Angelou has written 36 books.
jean michel basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist who first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s where the hip hop, punk, and street art cultures had coalesced. By the 1980s, he was exhibiting his neo-expressionist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992. Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique. Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle. In 1988, he died at his art studio at the age of 27. (Wikipedia)
sara jane boyers
Sara Jane Boyers is former music industry attorney/executive and personal manager of performers, Sara Jane Boyers changed direction to write and create books and to photograph. As a photographer, Boyers’ work has been picked for exhibition in juried competitions and exhibited in museums and galleries. As a writer, Boyers’ books have been critically acclaimed and her poetry published.

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