There are three areas that a children’s book must excel at, and where this one fails: language, story and artwork. So if the story doesn’t matter, the artwork isn’t important and you don’t mind pausing the story to explain the words used then this book is for you.
The Journey of Captain Scaredy Cat
Somos8 (Book 21)
Written by José Carlos Andrés
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
The story is supposed to encourage children who deal with fears to cover come them by asking the question, “is this fear real?” and then responding, “[thing] isn’t real” three times. This idea isn’t a bad one. Many times, a child’s fears are irrational. Ghosts? Sure, they aren’t real and self-talk is helpful in overcoming that fear. Vampires? Werewolves? Yes and yes. In fact, those are the three fears that Captain Scaredy Cat faces.
The problems start when the author starts the book out with the captain being scared of real things and it continues when any adult recognizes that children have fears that are all too often actually real. Death? Abuse? Fighting with siblings? Divorce? Yes, yes, yes, yes and more. And saying, “divorce isn’t real! Divorce isn’t real! Divorce isn’t real!” isn’t helpful. This logic applies to the things that Captain Scaredy cat is inexplicably afraid of as well: his clothes, his height, his shadow, the size of his shoes. How does saying, “It’s not real!” help any of his stated fears? They don’t. If a child is afraid of ghosts, well the refrain may work. But not so much for real fears.
If your child is afraid of ghosts, by the way, I wouldn’t recommend this book anyway. The very well done art can be terrifying for younger children. The ghost was his blanket that inexplicably turns into a giant monster ghost. The vampire and werewolf are similarly giant and scary. I have four children. I’ve never once, when one of them were afraid at night, thought, “I should show them scary pictures! That will help!” A shadow or the hint of a scary thing would be much more effective without actually causing fear in the viewer.
The choice of language used in the book is poorly selected. Odd words, including words not usually used by children (or even many adults) leaves the adult reader to explain words rather than moving through the story. Do you normally refer to “rancid” milk? Me either. I know that’s a thing, but a child may better understand “spoiled” or “rotten” milk leaving them free to follow the story.
In my experience with my children and with working with children for more than a decade I can tell you I would not show this book to them or recommend it to parents dealing with fear. The message is a good one for dealing with not real fears and in those cases I could see me asking guided questions like the book does, “Are ghosts real?” Then a refrain like the one included may help. Otherwise, I would pass on this one.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.