Who’s Afraid of a Children’s Book?

I am. But my kid isn’t.

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Fairy tale fear. Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

What If…? by Anthony Browne

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Page from What If…? by Anthony Browne (Author’s photo)
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Page from What If…? by Anthony Browne (Author’s Photo)
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Kid reading in a book store. Photo by Tra Tran on Unsplash
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Illustration from Love by Loren Long (written by Matt de la Peña), courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

Joe in What If… ? appears to have a pretty easy life.

The crisis in the book is that he’s going to a birthday party. But the nightmarish story art shows how terrifying anxiety can feel, regardless of how easy your life is or isn’t. It also suggests maybe there’s trauma there you would never imagine from the outside. Joe could be the child under the piano. Or his life could be free of major hardship but anxiety-ridden nonetheless. People’s pain and fear are real to them, regardless of the cause or how it looks to other people.

What do parents think of What If… ?

Here are some quotes from Amazon reviews for What if… ?:

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Confident kid on grownup’s shoulders. Photo by Jay Clark on Unsplash

What do kids think of What If… ?

Amazon has one review from a 5-year-old:

How does my kid feel?

“What do you think of this picture?” I ask my 4-and-a-half-year-old, looking at the drawing from What If… ? that makes me think of gang rape.

Empathy for the win! Published in Gen, Human Parts, Heated, Tenderly —Feminism, Sexuality, Veganism, Anti-Racism, Parenting. She/They darcyreeder.substack.com

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