In Times of Fear
The other day we got a picture book in the mail from Candlewick Books: Don’t Worry, Little Crab. I expected that, like most of Chris Haughton’s books, it would good, silly fun. This one is good. But it’s not silly.
In this, Little Crab is so excited to finally go to the ocean, except when Very Big Crab finally brings him to the edge of the ocean, the enormous waves seem insurmountable. Sound familiar?
Many of us are wondering if we can handle these waves.
I couldn’t read at the beginning of our social distancing. I was restless and my head felt too busy to focus on much of anything. Eventually, though, I’ve found a bit of my old rhythm.
Here are the books, in order of me reading them, that pulled me out of my slump and back into my beloved world of books. I thought it might be fun to look at each “strategy” that was a part of how that book absorbed me, as well as accompany each with pairings that might help occupy you or cheer you up in this weird time.
I’ve also included two lists. One is of books that I think might be ones that work well for reading when we’re feeling fearful, with varying strategies, and the other is a list of picture books that deal with fear in varying ways, in hopes that maybe it will be help to you and your kids.
If you have kids, I really hope that you get your own copy of Chris Haughton’s Don’t Worry, Little Crab. It’s lovely. The vibrant colors, the fantastic readability, the deep down belief that, like Little Crab, you “can go anywhere” even when the waves seem just too big. Even when you’re stuck at home so that you can save others.
“Don’t worry, Little Crab” says Very Big Crab. “I’m here! Come! Just a few more steps…”
- Jessica Khoury’s The Mystwick School of Musicraft
- The strategy: A different world, you say? With magic? And a magic school? Escapism at its finest.
- Pairings: The Nevermoor feel is real, so give that a read or re-read. The audiobook is fantastic, and has made its way into a continual re-read for me.
- The descriptions of the school made me immediately think of Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as the beautiful buildings at national parks, which would definitely make me inspired to use these beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright playing cards and puzzle, try out this National Parks Family Board Game, and maybe not share this National Parks coloring book.
- Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (illustrated edition)
- The strategy: To quote Kathleen Kelly, “I get lost in the language…words like thither, mischance, felicity”. I also get lost in Austen’s genius because HOW DID SHE DO THIS? I’m still reading this one because it does require focus, but the beauty of that is that when you can focus, you get fully immersed.
- Pairings: If you haven’t seen the PBS version with Colin Firth, now is the time. I also love the newer movie with Keira Knightley. I think the filming is stunning (so many iconic moments, right?), as is the score by Dario Marianelli, which makes puttering around the house feel like you’re doing something epic.
- If you can’t get enough Austen post reading, I remember enjoying this thoroughly satisfying Jane Austen mystery: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.
- Also, if an unlikely relationship and a piercing lens into society done through comedy are your bag, may I suggest the TV show Superstore? Such a good one.
- Emma Lord’s Tweet Cute
- The strategy: Admit that you might be mistaken about YA romance and give it a try. Discover that you absolutely love it and spend every spare moment picking it up.
- Pairings: This will probably make you want to re-watch You’ve Got Mail. Along those lines, I love One Fine Day, which is free for Prime users right now and sorely underrated.
- The baked goods in this one are going to make you want to make something home-y and classic, but with a twist. Pepper approved: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies, this Frozen Hot Chocolate, The Browniest Cookies, Salted Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats, the Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake, and these Cookie Dough Oreo Brownies whose common name I shall not say. I so wish this book had recipes for all the amazing desserts Pepper and her sister dream up because they sound absolutely fantastic.
- Kerry Winfrey’s Not Like The Movies (Thank you to Berkley for my e-galley! Comes out July 7.)
- The strategy: A romance with humor and coffee and pies.
- Pairings: First, have you read Waiting for Tom Hanks? Do yourself a favor and read that one. I wrote all about it here and also highly recommend listening to the rom-com playlist I made as an excellent pick-me-up.
- Then head to Kerry Winfrey’s Instagram account and check out all her posts for #underratedromcomwednesday.
- Then figure out what pie you want to bake because you’re going to want to bake pie.
- Also, this book may make you want to re-watch New Girl (or, if you’ve somehow never seen it, fix that, although don’t feel the need to watch the later seasons).
- Next up for me is Andy Greene’s The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s
- The strategy: Non-fiction deep dive, but make it unimportant.
- Pairings: The Office Ladies podcast.
- Did ya see me say that Superstore is a hilarious workplace comedy you should not sleep on?
25 Suggestions for Reading in Times of Fear
You’ll notice that there are a lot of different vibes here. I don’t know about you, but I go through waves of fear where I want different things. Maybe I want to sink into the past, maybe I want to cozy up with middle grade, maybe I want to distract myself with a mystery, maybe I want to confront fear with a dystopian read. There are so many ways to go!
- Winifred Watson’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
- Sloane Crosley’s Look Alive Out There
- Neal Shusterman’s Scythe
- Rosamund Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers
- Kate Carlisle’s Once Upon a Spine
- Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor
- Madeline Miller’s Circe
- Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
- Margaret A. Hogan’s My Dearest Friend: : Letters of Abigail And John Adams
- Sharon Creech’s Bloomability
- Karina Yon Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers and The Hidden Garden
- Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy series
- Kerry Winfrey’s Waiting for Tom Hanks
- David McCullough’s The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West
- Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
- Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street
- Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
- Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last
- Mary Oliver’s Upstream
- Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders
- Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts
- Julie Murphy’s Dear Sweet Pea
- Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen
- Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing
- Gina Kolata’s Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918
10 Picture Books About Handling Fear
- Chris Haughton’s Don’t Worry Little Crab
- Emily Arnold McCully’s Mirette on the High Wire
- Martin Waddell’s Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?
- Jonathan Stutzman’s Tiny T. Rex and the Very Dark Dark
- Anna Walker’s Lottie & Walter
- William Steig’s Brave Irene
- Amanda Noll’s I Need My Monster
- Kevin Henkes’s Sheila Rae the Brave
- Lauren Castillo’s Nana in the City
- Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen’s The Dark
How has your reading life been lately? Any strategies you’ve found that work for you? Pairings I should have thought of? Books you always turn to in times of fear? Please share away!
If you would like to join in on the fun, please go to the submissions page!