Okay, all, July is almost over, but I’ve got time to squeeze in one more book recommendation from our courage booklist, and you’re definitely going to want to check this one out. I scrambled to buy this book one day last summer, when our older daughter needed a little bravery boost for a summer camp… And we’ve returned to it multiple evenings in times of need, when the thought of what was coming the next day was a little too much to one of our girls. But, we’ve also pulled it out simply for a fun read, because it’s a fantastically written and beautifully illustrated picture book! Read on to see what makes When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, so delightful.
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First of all, let me remind you that Miller wrote one of my all-time favorites, Be Kind. Wheeler recently wrote and illustrated another that has been on high repeat in our house this summer, Home in the Woods (which earned itself a place on our recent resilience booklist). And, Miller and Wheeler have already collaborated on a gem of a book that we received years ago from Bookroo, Wherever You Go, and all these years later, it’s still a favorite in our house. So, my expectations for When You Are Brave were pretty high… And it did not disappoint!
When You Are Brave opens with an image of a family packing up their car for a move, and acute observers will notice two eyes peering out from inside the house. A turn of the page shows us that those eyes belong to the main character, whose family is moving and “everything around [her] seems scary.” But she has to be brave. Though the words tell us her head knows that, her body language lets us know her heart feels differently. Her journey starts with her trying to be as brave as a bird on its first flight, as brave as a dog looking for its home, as brave as a caterpillar building its cocoon, and we’ve off on this adventure with her. Miller’s story pulls us in, and our hearts start to flutter along with the girl’s. After all, we all know what it’s like to feel “too small, too quiet, too tired, not enough.”
But here is where Miller really works magic. She reminds us that, inside, we are indeed enough. We do indeed have enough. Because inside of all of us, we have the courage we need. We know it’s there because we’ve used it before, and when we need it again, it will be there still. Even more importantly, we can make that courage as big as we need it to be, by remembering. Remembering what we’re good at, the things we love, and the people who love us. And using our courage is like exercising our muscles — every time we use it, it gets stronger and easier to use!
Wheeler’s illustrations bring you along the emotional ride of the story just as much as Miller’s words. The story starts in the dark, and the pages are filled with blues, echoing not only the time of day but also the moods of the main character. When she remembers the courage inside her, however, that light starts to fill the pages, illuminating the story from the inside out and letting us know that the girl is indeed ready for and safe on her new adventure. Be sure to check out the hidden artwork under the cover, as well as the gorgeous endpages!