Alanna Propst, Author
Michelle Simpson, Illustrator
Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 30, 2021
Suitable for Ages: 4 – 8
Themes: Dogs, Anxiety, Fear, Exposure therapy, Rhyme
Opening: “Oh Tommy, you’ve got mail, it’s from Joey down the street. An invite to his birthday bash, it sounds like such a treat!”
Eight feet tall and with teeth like swords!
When Tommy is invited to a birthday party, he’s excited until he remembers his friend Joey has a big hairy dog that slobbers and barks a lot. Tommy is afraid of dogs and tells his mom he is too scared to go. His mother shares her fear of dogs as a child and reassures Tommy that they will come up with a plan and take slow steps to help him overcome his fear. With her help, Tommy slowly learns to overcome his fear through exposure therapy. Together, they take small steps to get him comfortable with dogs, starting with pictures of cute little puppies and working through steps to eventually pet a big dog all on his own so that he will feel comfortable going to his friend’s birthday party.
Why I like this book:
Alanna Propst’s delightful rhyming picture book will be a welcomed addition to any home or school library. The Not-So-Scary Dog will help children deal with just about any fear or phobia — animals reptiles, swimming, starting school, going to the doctor/dentist, riding in an elevator, or monsters under the bed. They won’t avoid fun activities, sit on the sidelines and miss-out on the fun. Kids have active imaginations and Tommy’s are a bit exaggerated to make point of how fears grow over time.
I remember my fear of certain dogs (Boxers and German Shepherds) as a child. I was bitten on my fanny when I was very young. It took years for me to overcome my fear of these two breeds. And I had a fear of snakes, although it didn’t stop me from running through cornfields and playing in the creeks. What were you afraid of as a child? Leave your answer in the comments section.
Michelle Simpson’s brightly colored illustrations showcase Tommy’s big imagination about big scary dogs. As the story progresses, her beautiful artwork is expressive and playful and compliments the story.
Resources: There is an excellent Reader’s Note at the end of the book that talks about exposure therapy and it’s many uses and benefits. There are suggestions and activities for parents and teachers to use with kids. There is also a series of questions to ask kids about the book to get them talking about Tommy’s fear. This will lead to kids talking about their fears. Share your own fears so your child doesn’t feel so alone or ashamed. How did you overcame your fear?
Alanna J. Propst is a psychiatrist who graduated from McGill University in both the Psychiatry Residency Program as well as the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Subspecialty Program, and has worked in inpatient, outpatient and emergency room settings. This is her debut picture books. She live in Montreal, Canada.