Halloween is right around the corner! For many kids this is an exciting time — dressing up is fun and the prospect of free candy, and lots of it, is a rush in itself. For some kids, though, Halloween is a scary time. It is when their fears are actualized, in the guise of other kids dressed up as witches, goblins and ghosts. Children need a healthy, positive way to deal with these fears and many picture books offer them the opportunity to do so.
Linda Williams has written a picture book about an old lady who walks, not runs, from her fear. But, in the end, she faces it head on.
In The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, an old lady sets out to gather herbs and spices, nuts and seeds. On her way back, she encounters two shoes, but she tells them “Get out of my way, you two big shoes! I’m not afraid of you,” and she keeps on walking. (Many kids may find strength in saying “I’m not afraid of you” out loud when they are feeling afraid at night.) For each consecutive article of clothing she encounters, the little old lady responds in the same way, but after a while begins to walk faster and she becomes more afraid. She takes off running for home when she finally encounters the big, scary pumpkin head that says, “Boo! Boo!”
This is a great story that has lots of repetition and action. Repeating lines such as “Get out of my way… I’m not afraid of you!” allows kids to join in reading the story. This is a key early literacy skill that fosters a love of reading and encourages children to read. Another great element of the story is repeating action. Each article of clothing makes a sound as they try to scare the old lady: “…Two shoes go clomp, clomp, one pair of pants go wiggle, wiggle, one shirt go shake, shake, two gloves go clap, clap, one hat go nod, nod and one scary pumpkin head go Boo! Boo!” Children love to participate in stories and they will have fun acting out these simple, fun actions.
The illustrations, by Megan Lloyd, are wonderful. In one illustration, where the little old lady is being chased, she is being crowded by all the clothes and pumpkin head to the bottom right corner of the frame. The old lady looks as if she’s being shoved off the page. In another illustration, when the old lady encounters the gloves and hat, the shirt is waiting, behind the old lady, with its arms crossed.
This tale does not end with the little old lady cowering in her cottage. No way! She takes matters into her own hands and, by whispering a few words to a big, scary pumpkin head, the little old lady turns a scary situation into a happy one.