Reviews /

I’m NOT (very) afraid of the Dark

Authored by Anna Millbourne
Illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Published by Usborne

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I’m NOT (very) afraid of the Dark has a narrator who is – scared of the Dark! Although he knows that the Dark is something of which he shouldn’t be afraid, he can’t quite get over his fear…until one day when he sees something that changes his mind.

At first, reasoning with himself that the Dark isn’t so bad doesn’t quite convince our narrator. Then as he tries different ways to conquer his fear (with the help of his parents – bedtime stories, night lights, camping trips) he gradually understands that Dark can be beautiful and isn’t something of which to be scared. The message echoes that of The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark.

This book deals with a genuine fear of many children. I recall myself just the same feeling described early on in the book – ‘In the day, the Dark is small […] But as the sun goes down, the Dark stretches out […] And the feeling inside me gets bigger too’. It’s irrational, and I can empathise with the main character that despite the rationalising that the ‘monsters on the wall’ are just teddy bears, the fear doesn’t always go away. I like this – it’s real. Even by the end of the book, where the boy has finally discovered something that shows him that Dark isn’t bad, he still says ‘But when I think of all those stars, sometimes the feeling melts away’ (my italics). The message is not ‘Go out camping, and everything will be alright; it’s better than that: ‘Keep trying to overcome your fears; you’ll get there one day’.

Children adore books with cutaways. This book has them in spades: the cover proudly proclaims ‘With hundreds of tiny holes’! And indeed the temptation to poke fingers or peep through the windows, eye-holes and stars will be overwhelming for many! I’d recommend this to Year 2 – 4 children especially, for this reason – they will appreciate the fun of the cutaways (itself making the book’s theme less scary) while at the same time will be careful enough to keep the paper engineering intact! The message of being brave in the dark is one that this age of child will relate to most as well, as they settle into the routine of being more independent at bedtime.

A warm, friendly, relatable narrator and detailed illustrations, which invite children to look closely, make I’m NOT (very) afraid of the Dark is a lovely book to share with any child dealing with a common fear.