Friday, July 7, 2017

I Am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Two Lions

Our guest blogger today is Susan Kusel, a librarian, children's book buyer and selector at an independent bookstore, and the owner of a children's book consulting company. She has served on the Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award committee, the Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter Book Awards committee, the 2015 Caldecott Medal selection committee, and she is currently chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee. She blogs at Wizards Wireless

When I first picked up this book, it was impossible not to think of the other two books in this series by this husband and wife team. I immediately remembered the beautiful and touching speeches made by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant when they accepted the Geisel Medal for You Are (Not) Small. I thought about how many, many times I’ve read that book to my son and how much he enjoyed it. I recalled the excitement I had when I read their follow-up book That’s (Not) Mine.

However, if I were sitting in a Geisel deliberation meeting, discussing I Am (Not) Scared, none of that would be relevant. I wouldn’t even be able to mention it. The Geisel criteria state “the committee in its deliberations is to consider only the books eligible for the award.” The handbook elaborates that “the phrase only the books eligible for the award specifies that the committee is to consider only eligible books, not an author’s body of work or previous accolades.” 

This means that series books, or any other book by an author or illustrator may not be discussed in nominations or deliberations, unless they were published that year. The Association for Library Service for Children (ALSC) gives out a lifetime achievement award. This is not it. Think about the practical implications of that rule. When Elephant and Piggie books were being published, the only ones that could be discussed in Geisel deliberations were the books published that year. 

So, let’s turn our focus back to the book at hand, as the Geisel committee would. I Am (Not) Scared is a delightful book, on a topic that children can relate to. At the beginning, the book does an excellent job of adding new words slowly. Pattern and repetition is very much on display. In the middle, new phrases appear more suddenly and are not repeated. However, each phrase, such as “a pit of hot lava” is very clearly illustrated to help a reader decode it. 
Image from I Am (Not) Scared
by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

The font is excellent; large, clear and easy to read. There are a few times towards the end while the main characters are riding the roller coaster that a different font is used. While it is a little less clear, it is extremely large, easy to read and conveys the fun happening in the book. The book is filled with white space and provides an uncluttered background. The sentences are short and contain many sight words. The roller coaster illustrations in particular advance the text and create a desire to find out what happens next. I think it’s a high quality book that’s a great addition to the early reader field.

Image from I Am (Not) Scared
by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this book as a reader, and I was excited for the page turns to see what would be next. My one question for this is the concept of the "(not)" in this particular book in the series. It is in the title, but the only time that "not" is used is once in one of the first few page spreads. It makes it cohesive to the series, and if a child has read the others, I think that they will understand the concept as it is fully explored in the the first one. As you point out when putting it up to the Geisel criteria that you can't put it up to the other books by the authors, this might move it off the table for me as a committee member. Still, I love this series, and will promote and keep in my library collection as it is a huge hit.