With psychological acumen, this book begins with when you are not brave — because no one who's feeling timid wants to hear "just buck up" or "things will look better soon." Not only that, but the story begins before any words appear, because illustrator Eliza Wheeler provides us with vital details on the title page, where we see a family loading their possessions into and atop a Volkswagen Bug and waving goodbye to their house. Wheeler gives the sky a touch of yellow, but the scene on the ground appears in shadowy greens and blues, and the girl and boy in the family look glum.
Then comes that sensitive balancing act of saying that "Some days, when everything around you seems scary" — like the girl's empty room with her belongings all gone — "you have to be brave" — in white letters on an all-black page. A young reader can tell that this surely isn't easy, and Zietlow Miller's words back this up by giving metaphors of difficulty, like:
"Brave as a bird that steps from its nest,
hoping to soar through the sky."
The book also admits what any mature person knows, that "some days are full of things you'd rather not do," and goes on to give examples that expand the story beyond the moving theme: learning to swim, giving a speech, boarding a bus to head to school for the first time. And with Wheeler's help in making the views out of the car look as frightening as they might to a shy child headed to a new home, the author acknowledges that at such times the world can seem: "Too big. Too loud. Too hard. Too much."
It isn't only children ages 5 - 7 — the intended audience for this book — who know that feeling. It's good for adults who may be reading this book aloud to a child to be reminded of how vulnerability can make any person feel: "Too small. Too quiet. Too tired. Not enough."
Having carefully recognized these challenging feelings, the author goes on to invite those listening to the story to close their eyes, breathe, and see inside a courage that shines in the dark: warm, steady, and safe. She helps readers recall those they love and who love them and to remember that this strength of heart will see them through no matter how deep the water and no matter what happens. During this transitional meditation on inner light, the illustrations grow more luminous, friendly, and uplifting, too.
In times when we have color-coded terrorism threat advisory scales and the news veers toward the chaotic and grim, young and old alike need reminders that courage comes from inside regardless of circumstances, and that it's closely connected to love. By offering those reminders, this book goes beyond its simple tale of moving to a new house and gives support that can make us all stand taller and face into life with a vital, loving confidence.