“I have always had a secret,” the dark-haired girl who narrates this story begins. “A tiny friend called Fear.” She stoops to see the small, lumpy white figure with an uncertain smile. After the girl arrives in a new country, where it’s storming outside, Fear grows as big as a room. “Fear hates my new school. When the teacher says my name wrong, she grows angry.” In silkscreen-like spreads by Sanna (The Journey), milky blues, pinks, and ochres gentle the force of the story’s feelings, and graceful curves give the compositions pleasing rhythm. Observant viewers will notice that while the girl wrestles with her worries (“I feel more and more lonely every day. Fear says it’s because no one likes me”), a boy looks shyly at her. Friendship and, soon, a feeling of belonging follow. While Sanna articulates anxious feelings about immigrating (“I don’t understand anyone and they don’t understand me”), this creative depiction shows how friendship, empathy, and connection can help bring the overwhelming down to size for all. Ages 3–7. Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House. (Sept.)
Sanna provides an empathetic exploration of the adjustment to a new land that all migrants experience.”—New York Times Book Review
“Authentic and immediate, the first-person narration draws in readers and reveals just how easily fear can become overwhelming and isolating, but can also be controlled when feelings are shared and through comfort found in friendship. Like Sanna’s The Journey, this book about an immigrant’s experiences tackles a tough topic with honesty, empathy, and a sense of hopefulness.”—School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“This follow-up to The Journey about a refugee family fleeing a war-torn homeland, focuses on the young daughter’s apprehension as she adjusts to life in a new country and a new school.”—The Horn Book Review
"[...] this creative depiction shows how friendship, empathy, and connection can help bring the overwhelming down to size for all."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“A universal book that can be used to explain fear to readers and give empathy to those in a new environment.”
“It will be a familiar story for many children, but the girl’s specific fears about language and difference might make this useful for discussions about newcomers as well.”
"[...] the pages get more colorful and the fears are contained within each spread to visually indicate to readers that fears are manageable and though they might not disappear completely, the most important thing is that we don't have to be scared alone."
—Let's Talk Picture Books
"A raw, tender story..."
—Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
“Me and My Fear is a lovely reminder that we all have our fear with us, especially in new situations, which all of us have to face at some point. It serves as a wonderful visual representation of the anxiety an immigrant child might be experiencing and hopefully help them recognize that it doesn't have to rule the day. The illustrations are clean and bright and just right.”
—Luan Stauss, Laurel Bookstore, Oakland, CA
“Starting a brand-new school as a refugee, unable to speak or understand the language, a young girl relies on her devoted companion, Fear. . . As it grows in size from a harmless looking moppet into a monster, children will recognize the difference between a little healthy fear and allowing fear to take control.”—Foreword Reviews
"Francesca Sanna’s stories are deeply meaningful tackling quite important themes but presenting them in a way that’s very easy for a child to relate to. In [...] Me and My Fear, she beautifully portrays the fears and anxieties of childhood and how one can face them. Her art style is distinctly employing a technique that feels collage-like, vibrant and detailed. I find her style incredibly perceptive and works beautifully with the story she is trying to convey."
—Varsha Ravi, Between Bookends
PreS-Gr 2—A young girl has always lived with her "tiny friend called Fear"—depicted in Sanna's expressive illustrations as a small, shy-looking white blob—a constant companion who has always looked after her and kept her safe. However, since the child's arrival in a new country, "Fear isn't so little anymore." In fact, Fear grows large enough to fill a room and begins to dominate every aspect of her life. Fear doesn't want the child to go to school, becomes angry when the teacher mispronounces her name, and keeps her isolated from the other students at recess. In the artwork, Fear, now-giant sized and smug-looking, wraps herself around the child and holds her tight, a marshmallow buffer between the girl and the rest of the world. "I feel more and more lonely every day. Fear says it's because no one likes me. Well, I don't like it here." Everything changes when a boy reaches out a hand in friendship, and reveals that he too has "a secret fear"—in fact, everyone does. The pastel-hue illustrations provide visual representation of an abstract concept and facilitate understanding and discussion. Authentic and immediate, the first-person narration draws in readers and reveals just how easily fear can become overwhelming and isolating, but can also be controlled when feelings are shared and through comfort found in friendship. VERDICT Like Sanna's The Journey, this book about an immigrant's experiences tackles a tough topic with honesty, empathy, and a sense of hopefulness. A must-purchase.—Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs
In this companion to The Journey (2017), Sanna reminds readers that the journey for refugees is far from over even after they find a new home.
Featuring the same black-haired, pale-skinned, refugee family from Sanna's previous book, this installment follows the daughter of the family of three as she adjusts to life in their new country of residence and tries not to let her fear overcome her. Fear is a secret "tiny friend" first portrayed in a positive light as a factor that has "kept me safe." But being in a new place is overwhelming, and her fear has grown exponentially, both in size and in stubbornness, preventing the narrator from exploring her new world. Fear brings loneliness, self-doubt, and sleepless nights, but it also causes her to rationalize her solitude, believing that those around her cannot and will not understand or like her. When a friendly boy finally connects with her, the narrator is able to manage her fear and realizes that he and others at school also have their own fears that they must manage. Though the fears are sometimes depicted as large, angry, or apprehensive, they are generally small, smiling, ghostlike creatures that are companions to all. Read without the previous book's context, there are no cultural markers to indicate the family's background, just text indicating that the family is in a new country, is learning the language, and that the girl's teacher has a hard time saying her name. The narrator's classmates have various skin tones and hair color.
A universal book that can be used to explain fear to readers and give empathy to those in a new environment. (Picture book. 4-8)