cover image I Used to Be Afraid

I Used to Be Afraid

Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-631-2

Common fears are named and put to rest in Seeger’s (Green) visually dramatic picture book. A girl wears an open-mouthed expression of shock in the opening spread, watching a spider dangle from her ceiling. “I used to be afraid of spiders,” she reports, continuing with a decisive “but not anymore.” The spider is a die-cut opening to the next spread, where the girl observes the spider building a web, an array of sticky, stuttering lines that appear drawn with white glue. Repeating this pattern of stating and recontextualizing conquered fears, Seeger shifts the sources of anxiety from manageable things, like shadows and “making a mistake,” to the discomfort brought by life changes. Four spreads address “being alone”: a rectangular cutout becomes the window of a bus taking the girl’s friend away to camp. The girl hangs her head until the “but not anymore” page pictures her contentedly reading beneath a tree. Seeger uses striking acrylic hues, chunky shapes, and a resolute voice to suggest that fears (even those involving big brothers) can be overcome. Despite its small dimensions, this book suggests big determination. Ages 3–7. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)