Reviews /

When I Feel Brave

Authored by Britta Teckentrup
Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
Published by Prestel

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This beautiful book, written in rhyme, describes a young girl’s feelings of being frozen by fear, not knowing how to cope with the enormity of her feelings. Confused, she runs and runs, surrounded by darkness, going in circles and getting nowhere. She knows she won’t be able to escape her fear, but a voice prompts her to turn and confront it and gradually she gathers courage. When she begins to acknowledge her fear she grows in strength and feels free, able to dance, laugh sing and dream. The darkness recedes and she is bathed in the light of joy. She has finally come to see that both courage and fear are part of who she is.

Britta Teckentrup has clothed a story of a person’s feelings of anxiety and depression in an engaging visual story of a young girl fleeing a bear in the forest. She uses dark collage and drawn images in browns, greens and greys to show the reality of the girl’s fear, which gradually lifts to lighter colours of amber, gold and pale greens. The bear remains dark, but flocks of birds signify the lifting feelings of release and happiness. By making the bear huge at the beginning, then becoming smaller in the girl’s mind, Teckentrup shows how anxiety can be moved more into perspective when it is faced and accepted. She uses varied font size to emphasise the emotions and eventually, rather than running across the dark double page spreads, the little girl is depicted face to face with the bear who tells her ‘With every small step your courage will grow.’ Whilst 5-year-old readers upwards may not fully grasp the message about facing up to anxiety, they will enjoy the beauty of the images and the story of a girl who, riding on the bear, moves into the light.