Mart Grams addresses common fears of young children page-by-page in the comforting children’s picture book Grandpa I’m Afraid.
Each fear receives its own page of dialogue between Alli and her grandfather—and sometimes Sophia, another granddaughter. Here, Grandpa defuses the kids’ concerns with a combination of rational and emotional arguments: for example, fear of bees is calmed by encouraging Alli to consider what humans must look like from the bees’ viewpoint, and by reminding her that bees just want to look for “friends and flowers.” Monsters under the bed and in the closet, clowns, dolls, basements, spiders, shots and medicine, and finally imagination itself are all handled with gentle humor and genuine empathy.
Grams ends each page, with a joke or playful comment. These sometimes fall flat (ending with an exclamation point instead of a comma might have helped in places). Other endings shift the conversation awkwardly—a transition from Sophia’s fear of spiders crawling into her mouth while she sleeps, for example, too quickly becomes a reminder to brush her teeth.
Each page of dialogue is accompanied by a facing, full-page illustration by Allisandra German (the same “Alli” from the narrative). Her pencil and marker drawings have the raw, uncontrived style typical of child artists. While lacking polish, they generally suit the book’s content and delivery. Children’s fears are depicted scarily enough to illuminate the narrative but are never overly frightening; most kids will have no trouble putting the book down and getting a good night’s sleep.
Although Grams readily admits he’s not an expert, he includes a three-page introduction that speaks to parents about their child’s fears; the author’s life experience, along with thoughtful consideration of a child’s viewpoint, results in sound, practical advice on what to say, and perhaps more importantly, what NOT to say.
Grandpa I’m Afraid accomplishes its goal admirably, in a way that allows young children to easily relate. It’s recommended for children grade 3 and older.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.