Review of I'm Brave! I'm Strong! I'm Five!

I’m Brave! I’m Strong! I’m Five!
by Cari Best; illus. by Boris Kulikov
Preschool, Primary    Ferguson/Holiday    32 pp.
10/19    978-0-8234-4362-8    $18.99

In this intrepid bedtime story, an independent young girl confronts and overcomes her fear of the dark by reminding herself, “I’m brave! I’m strong! I’m five!” It’s time for bed, but Sasha isn’t tired: she uses her flashlight to make a star, a car with one headlight, and a lighthouse that blinks on and off; she bounces on her bed “like a girl kangaroo that doesn’t want to sleep.” Looking out her window, she sees the moon and its “giant eye staring down at me.” She’s about to call Mama and Papa, but then resolves, “I can do this myself,” because “I’m brave! I’m strong! I’m five!” This mantra (along with the light of her flashlight) helps Sasha face a series of challenges — a shadow with six arms, a loud crash, a scary face. “I didn’t call Mama. I didn’t call Papa. I did everything myself. Hooray!” Cinematic and bold, Kulikov’s crosshatched illustrations effectively use lighting to create and then dispel Sasha’s fearful imaginings. In a nearly dark bedroom, the shadows do create a spooky six-armed monster and a scary ghostly face. But then, under the warm glow of the flashlight, the eerie and shadowy are revealed as ordinary: a costume, the girl’s reflection in a mirror. Equal parts sincere and entertaining, this is a story that affirms and empowers children as they face their own bedtime fears.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart is a school librarian at the Percy Priest Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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