Tag Archives: fear

When You Need Wings

Written & Illustrated by: Lita Judge

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Fear, New Places, Anxiety, Growing Up, Mindfulness, Coping Strategies. 


In this uncertain time, we know fear is at an all-time high for a lot of folks.  We’ve been making an effort to share books that focus on social-emotional learning and development, and coping strategies for big feelings.  When You Need Wings is all about a young girl starting a new school, and coping with her fear of being in a new environment.  Scared on the playground after her dad leaves, our main character takes some deep breaths and remembers that she has wings and can fly away using her imagination to find solace.

Being able to take a moment to ground yourself when in a moment of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty is a very powerful way to remain calm.  While starting a new school is the catalyst for this young girl to practice mindfulness strategies (and none of us are starting new schools anytime soon) this can be so helpful when getting overwhelmed about responsibilities at home, homeschooling, or the state of the world.  We’re also in love with the illustrations!

This book was kindly sent to us for review by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & Illustrator:

IMG_5913_hires_smLita Judge has had a fascinating life!  She was born in Alaska, interned as a paleontologist during the summer when she was a teenager, and has a myriad of critters in her home.  Check out the about me section of her website, we were sucked in immediately.  She’s been on so many adventures!  Lita Judge is the author and illustrator of 24 fiction and nonfiction books including, Mary’s Monster, One Thousand Tracings, Born in the Wild, Red Sled, and Hoot and Peep. Her book, Flight School, has recently been adapted into an off-Broadway musical which is currently showing in New York City and China. Awards for her books include the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, an ALA Notable, NCTE Notable Book, a Kirkus Best Book, and the Jane Addams Honor. Before she created art and books, Lita was a geologist and worked on dinosaur digs. But a trip to Venice Italy inspired her to quit her job and pursue a lifelong passion for creating art. Now, when not in her studio, she can be found backpacking through Europe with her sketchbook and easel in hand. Painting in the streets of Italy, France, Sweden, Russia and many other places have inspired her many of her books. The novel, Mary’s Monster, was inspired through reading Mary Shelley’s journals while exploring places she had traveled. This book created a rich opportunity to explore working in a completely new form, that of combining free verse with full page illustrations in novel form. Lita was drawn to capturing the interior world of Mary Shelley’s mind, as well as the realistic images of her life. Creating this book was a journey in itself and took five years to complete. Lita lives in New Hampshire.

Kaia and the Bees

Written by: Maribeth Boelts

Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Growth, Fear, Lying, Beekeeping, Environmental Conservation, Family, Education, Emotional Regulation.


Kaia’s family has a pretty unique hobby, especially for living in an apartment building.  Her dad keeps bees!  He is very passionate about beekeeping, and bee conservation, especially since honeybee numbers are dwindling globally.  Kaia knows it’s important, but unfortunately she has One Big Fear: bees! Kaia’s small interracial family has thousands of bees, and Kaia is quick to brag to her friends how she’s also a beekeeper like her dad.  They’re impressed…until a bee comes along and she panics.

This story is all about Kaia’s journey through fear, emotional regulation, and bravery.  Her dad doesn’t push her to be around the bees, but continually opens up opportunities for her to interact and help out with them.  I love how interwoven into this story of facing fears is a very real fear that many scientists have-that the bees will disappear and bring ecosystems to a screeching halt with the lack of pollination that bees provide.  This is an adorable story perfect for nature, environmentalism, or social-emotional units in a classroom, or at home!

This book was generously sent to us by Candlewick Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maribeth-boelts-2020-honey-01Maribeth Boelts has been writing stories since kindergarten and began writing for kids over 25 years ago when her own children were young. Lots of picture books and three children/four grandchildren later, Maribeth enjoys not only the process of story writing but also meeting kids and adults who like to write. Maribeth and her family took on the challenge of beekeeping, and enjoyed this fascinating hobby for several years. The stings aren’t fun, but the work that honeybees do in pollinating is absolutely essential, and they were thrilled to play a tiny part in it. She also loved harvesting honey! Maribeth is so happy any time she can be in the woods, on a trail, on a river, or watching a sunrise or sunset. Nature has a way of changing us, healing us, and giving us all sorts of creative ideas!

authorspic_websizeAngela Dominguez was born in Mexico City and grew up in the great state of Texas. She now resides on the east coast with her boyfriend, Kyle, and petite dog, Petunia.

She is also the author and illustrator of several books for children and a two-time recipient of Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Her debut middle grade novel, Stella Díaz Has Something To Say, was a New York Public Library and a Chicago Public Library pick for Best Books for Kids in 2018, Sid Fleischman Award winner, and an ALA Notable. When Angela is not in her studio or visiting schools, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency. As a child, she loved reading books and making a mess creating pictures. She’s delighted to still be doing both.

Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Written & Illustrated by: Joe Todd-Stanton

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Adventure, Girls Outdoors, Family, Strength, Fear, Social-Emotional Growth.  

Summary: This is the tale of Marcy, daughter of Arthur from the first Brownstone’s book. Marcy is very afraid of the dark, and also very skeptical that her father ever had a wild life of adventure (after all, he’s so old now!).

Arthur decides to go and try to obtain a book of secrets in hopes of curing Marcy’s fear.  Unfortunately, he is taken captive by a large snake inside a pyramid during his quest.  Marcy must go on an adventure to help save her father, and hope that her fears are conquered in the process.  This book is great in showing that girls can be problem-solvers and outdoor adventurers!  Marcy must decide for herself who to believe when she meets various Egyptian gods and goddesses, and how best to free her father.  The story is helpful in that it discusses what the gods and goddesses rule over, making it an educational adventure that Marcy goes on.  The characters are not incredibly diverse, but the only human characters are Marcy and her parents.  Arthur and Marcy do end up leaving the book he was searching for in the pyramid, which honestly made us feel better given the colonial history of pillaging Egyptian artifacts.

Of the Brownstone’s books, I really like how the heroines are strong and independent!  They face their fears in order to help others, being a role model for social-emotional development and growth.  I am also such a fan of the illustrations, they’re adorable and reminiscent of comic books (something I really like).  There are lots of little humorous details to discover on the pages, an aspect that makes Joe Todd-Stanton’s style unique.

This book was generously sent to us by Flying Eye Books for review. All opinions are our own! The hardcover version was originally published in 2017, but the softcover edition will be available in early March of 2020.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Headshot_BW_croppedJoe Todd-Stanton grew up in Brighton and studied at UWE Bristol, receiving a first class degree in Illustration. Joe has been commissioned to work for clients such as Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing and Aquila magazine.

To find out a little more about his work, Flying Eye asked Joe the following questions:

What inspires your work?
I normally find inspiration through reading or conversations. It’s rare that I get a fully-formed image in my mind but I will read about something strange that interests me and I will research it to see if anything grabs my attention. Normally by the time I have finished the work it has complete changed from the thing that influenced it but I think that is what makes it interesting.

Tell us a bit about your process…

I try and keep plenty of sketch books and fill them up with weird characters and life drawings so when it comes to making an actual piece of work or commission I already should have a few relevant drawings and I’m not just starting from scratch. Once I have a finished drawing I use Photoshop to colour and tweak things around.

Grandad Mandela

Written by: Zazi, Ziwalene & Zindzi Mandela

Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Activism, 

Summary: This book is written from the perspective of Mandela’s great-grandkids asking questions about their great-grandfather Mandela to their grandmother Zindzi. He went to jail when his daughter was just a toddler, for fighting against apartheid. Details of life during apartheid are described, such as being forced to live apart from white people and endure police brutality. Because of this, Zindzi and her siblings couldn’t go to school. They were sent to boarding school in Swaziland to receive education. Zindzi tells her grandchildren that you must be strong in the face of hardship, because the enemy will be happy if they see you cry and be sad. Zindzi goes through their family tribal history, and how that lifestyle shaped Grandad Mandela to be the man he was. He grew up and studied law, wanting to bring justice to his home country of South Africa. When imprisoned, the government hoped he would give up his activist lifestyle. Instead, the opposite happened and people all over the world began to join the fight to end apartheid. When Mandela was finally released, thousands of people celebrated his release by dancing in the streets! Mandela became the president of South Africa and continued to fight for justice. Zindzi tells her grandchildren that she honors his memory by volunteering and helping others.

This book is a unique narrative frame, with gorgeous artwork! It honors the social-justice legend of Nelson Mandela and links his past work to current day. Such an important part of global history is immortalized with this conversation between family members, and this book should be in every classroom library.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of apartheid or Nelson Mandela?
  • How has he helped people all over the world?
  • What can you do to help people in your community?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about Mandela and his contributions to history. What can you do to volunteer in your community? What is something you care about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:


Ambassador Zindzi Mandela is a South African freedom fighter, diplomat, writer, speaker, cultural advocate and favorite Grandma. She is the last born child of Mrs Winnie Madikizela- Mandela and President Nelson Mandela, and was only 18 months old when her father went to prison. In 1985, when she was 25 years old, she read Nelson Mandela’s famous refusal to accept the offer of conditional release from President P. W. Botha to a packed football stadium in Soweto, saying his words, ‘I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.’ The Ambassador lives in Copenhagen where she serves as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.

Zazi Mandela (8) and Ziwelene Mandela (6) are the great-grandchildren of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and President Nelson Mandela. Zazi is a storyteller and an aspiring performer. Ziwelene is a storyteller and a maverick.

sean-quallsSean Qualls finds inspiration everywhere. Growing up in the 70’s in central New Jersey, his family didn’t have much money for art supplies but he made the best of what was available; discarded paper, blank end pages from old books and sometimes walls much to his mother’s chagrin. Some of his earliest inspirations were the crayons and coloring books his mom would buy for him and his older sister, drawing and handwriting competitions with classmates and an illustrated bible he received for Christmas in the 2nd grade. He moved to Brooklyn to attend art school at Pratt Institute. After only a year and a half he dropped out but continued to educate himself while working full-time at the Brooklyn Museum. Sean’s books and illustrations often explore history and non-fiction subjects. His fine art focuses on race & identity and the intersection of history & mythology, ultimately examining how we create our own identities or allow them to be scripted to for us.  Together his paintings and illustrations reveal  simultaneously unique and universal moments that reveal the human spirit. Sean’s most recent books include Why Am I Me?The Case for Loving and Two Friends all of which he illustrated with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko. He has also illustrated Emmanuel’s Dream (Schneider Award recipient) written by Laurie Ann Thompson, Giant Steps to Change the World written by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor) written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife and their two children.

I Am Not A Number

Written by: Jenny Kay Depuis and Kathy Kacer

Illustrated by: Gillian Newland

For Ages: 7-11 years

Language: English, some Ojibway.

Topics Covered: Indigenous People, First Nations, Historical Figures, Residential Schools, Culture, Community.

Summary: This book is an emotional look into the story of Irene Couchie Dupuis and her forced residential schooling during her childhood.  Irene’s father was the chief of their First Nation community, yet Irene and several of her siblings are forced to attend a year of school away from home.  Irene’s mother tells her to never forget who she is, or anything about the life she had known before the residential school.  At the school, Irene and the other children are subjected to harsh rules and unkind nuns hellbent on erasing their culture. Their hair is cut, and their names are replaced with numbers.  Irene is burned after using her native Ojibway language, and after nearly a year with no familial contact the students are released for a summer at home.  Back at home, Irene tells her family what living in the residential school is like and her parents are outraged.  The Couchie family comes up with a plan to hide the children after the summer is over, horrified at the prospect of another year enduring more abuse at the hands of the nuns.  Irene is outside their home hanging laundry one day when the government agent that took them away the first time is seen walking up the road towards their home.  Irene and her two brothers run to their planned hiding place, shaking and afraid.  Their father tells the agent he sent his children to stay with family, and the agent can do whatever he wants to him but he will NEVER let the agent take away his children.  After what seems like an eternity to Irene, the agent leaves.  The children are safe.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Irene feels when she is not allowed to use her own name?
  • How would you feel if you were Irene, and your father stood up to someone like that?
  • Have you heard any stories from your older family members about things that happened in their childhood that doesn’t really happen now?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about historical figures in your area.  What local impact have they made in your community, and why are they a role model for younger generations?
  • Speak with older family members about their lives when they were younger.  Write an autobiography for them, and look at old photos!  What is the same as your life now, and what is different?  Would your family members change anything?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jenny-kay-dupuis-profile-picDr. Jenny Kay Dupuis was born in Northern Ontario and is a proud member of Nipissing First Nation. She is an educator, author, artist, and keynote speaker with over 15 years’ success advancing innovative programs, strategies and research initiatives across Canada focusing on topics pertaining to Indigenous issues, leadership and diversity, inclusion, and the importance of relationship building today. Jenny’s interest in her family’s past and her commitment to teaching about truth and Indigenous realties through literature and the arts drew her to to co-write I Am Not a Number, her first children’s picture book about her granny’s experience at a residential school. Since its release in September 2016, the book has been on CBC Books bestsellers list for 35 weeks. The book was also one of the finalists for the 2017 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards, which celebrates the best writing for young readers. I Am Not a Number is up for a several other awards this coming year.

kathy kacerKathy Kacer was born in Toronto and has lived there her whole life. She has a Masters degree in psychology and worked with troubled teenagers and their families for many years. But she always dreamed of becoming a children’s author. She stopped working full time in 1998 to pursue this dream. Her first book, The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, is based on a true story about her mother whose name was Gabi. She has gone on to write many more books about real people living through the Holocaust. A winner of the Silver Birch, Red Maple, Hackmatack and Jewish Book Awards, and a finalist for the Geoffrey Bilson and Norma Fleck Awards, she has written many unforgettable stories inspired by real events. Her books have also been published in many countries including Germany, China, Slovenia, Thailand, England, Japan, and Belgium. Her novels are stories of hope, courage, and humanity in the face of overwhelming adversity.



Gillian Newland is an artist. She works mostly in watercolour, ink and pencils.

Captain Starfish

Written by: Davina Bell

Illustrated by: Allison Colpoys

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

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

Summary:  This book is about a young boy named Alfie, who gets That Feeling when he has to do something new.  Alfie gets That Feeling when he has to participate in running races, at birthday parties, or do something he doesn’t feel brave enough to do.  This year, Alfie is leading the Underwater Dress-Up Parade as Captain Starfish.  The night before the parade, Alfie’s parents tuck him into bed.  Alfie has underwater themed nightmares, and wakes up feeling not brave enough to be Captain Starfish.  Alfie’s mom comes into his room and he tells her “I can’t.  Please don’t be angry.”  Alfie’s mom isn’t angry, and tells him to get dressed.  They are going somewhere special!  Alfie’s mom takes him to the aquarium, where everything is shimmery and beautiful. Alfie sees a starfish, but that makes him feel worse about missing the parade.  Then, Alfie sees a clownfish for a split second before it hides again among the coral.  Alfie connects with this shy fish, and talks about it the entire way home.  “Sometimes clownfish need to hide away.” his mother says.  “People too.” says Alfie.  Alfie decides to dress as a clownfish the following year for the Underwater Dress-Up Parade, and the last page of the book is Alfie onstage in a costume.

This book is a tender look at social anxiety in children.  Alfie’s parents do not push him to  interact with his peers when he feels uncomfortable, instead encouraging him to feel brave enough to do things like go to a friend’s birthday party or lead the parade as Captain Starfish.  Adorable illustrations and relatable content, would definitely recommend for talking about fear of new things to young children.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever felt That Feeling when doing something new?
  • How do you think Alfie feels when his mother is not mad that he doesn’t want to be Captain Starfish?
  • Why do you think Alfie connects with the clownfish at the aquarium?
  • How do you think Alfie feels at the Underwater Dress-Up Parade onstage at the end of the book, when he is dressed as a clownfish?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Talk about bravery as a group.  What are some ways that students show courage?  How could they help others feeling anxious or scared about doing something like lead a parade?
  • Have your own Underwater Dress-Up Parade!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

davina bell Davina Bell is a writer and editor from Western Australia. Her short stories and essays have been published in various journals and anthologies, including Best Australian Stories. For six years she was an editor at Penguin Australia in the Young Readers Division, where she was lucky enough to work with some of Australia’s most talented creators of books for children. Davina’s first novels for middle-grade readers were published by Penguin Books as part of the hugely successful Our Australian Girl series. Works of historical fiction, they follow a year in the life of a ballerina growing up in Perth during World War One. Her first picture book, The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade, was published by Scribe in 2015 and is illustrated by the award-winning book designer Allison Colpoys. In 2016, she has picture books coming out with Scribe, Penguin and Allen and Unwin. Davina is currently living in the south-west corner of Australia on the edge of a vineyard, writing and freelancing. She regularly talks at schools, universities and festivals around the country about writing and publishing.

Allison ColpoysAllison Colpoys is an award-winning book designer and illustrator, and a lover of pattern and typography. A previous Senior Designer at Penguin Books Australia, she now works in-house at Scribe Publications, and freelances through the Jacky Winter group. Allison’s first illustrated picture book, The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade, won two Australian Book Design Awards, an Australian Book Industry Award, and has been shortlisted for the CBCA’s Crichton Award for the Best New Talent.

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.