Book Review: Me and My Fear, by Francesca Sanna

A young girl lives with fear as her constant companion, initially small and easily managed but soon ballooning to proportions she can no longer control until she learns she is not alone.

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Many of us can recall times of uncertainty, nervousness and perhaps dread at the thought of going to school. We remember vividly our first day in a new class, starting afresh after moving into a new area and having to make new friends.

In Me and My Fear, a young girl faces these same challenges after moving countries. Fear, her constant companion, is initially small and easily managed but soon balloons to proportions she can no longer control. She longs for friendship but, smothered by her now-enormous fear, she has no room left in her life for positive experiences.

Her growing problem begins to affect her sleep and appetite and her loneliness is compounded, at school, by her inability to make herself understood. When she eventually succeeds in wrestling her fear into submission, she discovers she’s not alone in her worries. This realisation frees her to take her place in the classroom and the schoolyard with the other children.

Me and My Fear is written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna, an Italian author, illustrator and graphic designer who is now based in Switzerland. Her previous publication, The Journey, was a bestseller and winner of the 2017 Amnesty CILIP Honour. The Journey raised awareness of human rights through the story of a family forced to flee their home because of war. Me and My Fear also touches on the theme of the refugee child, but its main focus is the universal experience of fear and anxiety and the benefits of developing empathy for others.

Sanna’s use of a restrained colour palette of blue and peach tones with rich yellow is very effective in giving the book a soft and sunny appearance. The illustrations are appealing and make clever use of white space to depict the expansion and contraction of the child’s fear. This fear is depicted as a small, ghost-like creature, ever present and sometimes smothering but never too terrifying.

At the end of the book, the author acknowledges her own struggles with anxiety. She also thanks the children who helped in the preparation of the book by sharing their stories and experiences of being ‘the new one, the different one, the one from another country’.

Me and My Fear is a gentle exploration of a difficult subject and will be useful for helping children build insight into their own fears as well as the fears of others.

Reviewed by: Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Rating out of 10: 8

Distributed by: Walker Books
Released: September 2018
RRP: $27.99

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