Can't Scare Me!
Can't Scare Me
Ashley Bryan
ISBN 9781442476578
Atheneum/S&S, 2013.
5 stars
Keywords: ashley-bryan courage intergenerational-families music scare storytelling

Can't Scare Me!
by Ashley Bryan

Children will be chanting along with the "willful, thrillful child" at the center of this folktale about a brave boy who uncovers a healthy dose of fear.

The boy hero of this picture book, musically retold by Ashley Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird) from a collection of folklore from the Antilles, has worn out his parents, who send him to Grandma. The boy's grandmother holds him close and tells him the story of a two-headed giant and his three-headed brother, who come out after dark. The boy pays her no mind. He plays the flute ("Too-de-loo-de-loo-de-loot!") and sings a powerful song, "Tanto, tanto, I'm wild and I'm free./ Grandma's stories can't scare me./ I'm bold! I'm brave!/ And though I may be small,/ No many-headed giant/ Scares me at all." Anyone who has ever heard Bryan perform his poetry knows that he reveres both the spoken and written word. He choreographs his refrains into foolproof phrases that anyone may recite with confidence.

In a ploy that will be familiar to youngsters, Giant Three Heads urges the boy closer, the better to hear his song. Bryan's fiesta-bright colors keep the story from feeling too scary, even when the giant snatches him up and pops him into a sack. The captive boy successfully uses the Giant's tactic on the cook, Janey ("Open the bag a wee bit more,... you'll dance upon the tip of your toes, with tippity-tappity-tiddle") as he plays his way out of the sack ("Too-de-loo-de-loo-de-loot!"). The hero returns to Grandma a little wiser and more respectful, yet still that appealingly willful, thrillful child.

This review first appeared in
Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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