When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Little Brown & Company, New York and Boston, 2019.
“Some days, when everything around you seems scary…you have to be brave.” When You are Brave is the story of a young girl who is moving to a different house in a different city. The illustrations, beautifully rendered by Wheeler, clearly depict the angst the child is feeling as she leaves her home. She sits in the back seat of her car, clutching a blanket and a stuffed toy. The text, however, never mentions moving or anything to do with it. The words do not specify what the girl is actually doing—only what she is feeling. And that is what is so wonderful about this book. A child can look at the pictures and figure out the girl’s story. That same child, when the text is read, can put their own scary feelings into the story—whatever they are afraid of. The writer aptly points out that, “…some days are full of things you’d rather not do…At times like these, the world can seem…Too big. Too loud. Too hard. Too much.” Most of us have felt like this on a bad day when one more thing is asked of us which we’re sure we can’t handle. The text goes on to encourage the reader to find their courage—which is illustrated as a shiny light coming from the little girl’s heart. The child is encouraged to picture their courage in their mind and imagine it becoming bigger. The tiny light from the girl’s heart turns into beautiful wings and eventually spreads out into the world. “The next time life seems scary or you start something new, you can remember when you were brave.” Because we’ve all been brave at some time.
Miller, the author of Sophie’s Squash and many more, has created an important book that has the ability to help children through difficult times. With its encouraging message to remember when they were brave, they will know they can be brave again. A great choice for kids facing something new and scary.