Judy’s Library Corner – The Little Bit Scary People.

Books GeekMom
Photo: Hyperion Books

One of the things I miss the most about working in a library is the picture books. I loved shelving picture books, because it meant I could flip through those colorful stacks of gems. I was thrilled when my fifth grader’s teacher recently added “2 picture books” to the list of his assigned reading.  It was my big chance to go back to those rows  and rows of treasures.

I easily found a few good ones for him, on topics he loves and topics I want him to know more about (think historical fiction). And I also stumbled across a few that caught my eye, ‘just for me’.  One of my favorites is called The Little Bit Scary People, by Emily Jenkins (illustrated beautifully by Alexandra Boiger).

As usual, the clever title, and the artwork on the cover sucked me in. I’ve raised a house full of kids and I know that when you’re smaller than most things in the world, every day you’re surrounded by ‘little bit scary’ things, and ‘little bit scary’ people.

I caught the premise after the first two pages.  It goes something like this:

Photo: Hyperion Books

“The big boy with thick eyebrows rides his skateboard on the sidewalk and cranks the radio so loud, my dad yells out the window for him to turn it down. He’s a little bit scary.”

(Turn the page, and see a picture of the same scary boy, curled up in bed, a cat folded in his arms, and the little girl who’s narrating the book watching him from above).

But I bet, when he wakes up in the morning, he kisses his cat on the head and scratches her neck until she purrs.”

Genius. Through the whole book, the little girl points out people who seem scary to her (the cafeteria lady, who never lets anyone take more than one milk, or the bus driver who honks her horn loudly, even when she doesn’t need to) and then imagines what they do when they are being ‘not so scary’, like making pancakes for their children, or reading cowboy stories to their dog.

Photo: Hyperion Books

I love this coping mechanism, that makes a child imagine all the different sides to people they meet. I especially appreciate the fact that one of the scary people is a quirky girl in her class, who she doesn’t really understand (a geekchild, maybe?). By thinking of her as a child learning to ride her bike after school, with a mom running alongside to help, she sees her classmate with new eyes.

And the fun twist at the end, is that two of the characters who might seem scary, end up being her gothic older sister and her policeman dad. She knows firsthand that we all can seem different,when we’re out in the world, but that we’re all just regular people underneath it all.

I’d buy this book for any 3-8 year old, although my ten year old son had some pretty big smiles too, when I forced him to read it with me last night.  Neither of us saw the twist at the end coming, with the family members being main characters, and I hope he carried the message with him to school today. Before you write someone off, imagine them in a different situation and a new light.

As an interesting side note, as I was researching the author, Emily Jenkins, who also wrote Toy Dance Party and its sequels, as well as many other children and adult books, I stumbled upon some personal facts about her I strongly related to. She seems to be a classic GeekMom type. Here is a short snippet of her biographical essay:

I was a raw child. In fact, I am a raw adult. This is a hard quality to live with sometimes, but it is a useful quality if you want to be a writer. It is easy to hurt my feelings, and I am unable to watch the news or read about painful subjects without weeping. I was often called over-sensitive when I was young, but I’ve learned to appreciate this quality in myself, and to use it in my writing.

Growing up, I spent large parts of my life in imaginary worlds: Neverland, Oz, and Narnia, in particular. I read in the bath, at meals, in the car, you name it. Around the age of eight, I began working on my own writing. My early enterprises began with a seminal picture book featuring an heroic orange sleeping bag, followed by novel-length imitations of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

If anything, I think GeekMom is about being a free thinker, and figuring out your passion so you can live it. I get the feeling Ms. Jenkins is just that kind of person.

My recommendation is to read her book The Little Bit Scary People, to a young child in your life, then maybe open up some discussion about which people in their world (and yours!) seem ‘ a little bit scary’ to them. It might be fun to imagine the lighter side of those same scary people.

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5 thoughts on “Judy’s Library Corner – The Little Bit Scary People.

  1. I have to find that book and share it with my Primary kids. It looks adorable. I have to check out her website too because just reading her bio I can relate. Though I am not a writer, I am a raw person. I never heard it called that, but I am that person. My 10yo son is very much like that too… not enough to make him an outcast but enough to make him a sensitive soul.

  2. I know your primary kids will love this book, Mim. I plan to buy it for many of my favorite little people this holiday season!


  3. Oh I love her! She also writes brilliant YA under the name E Lockhart, which is also her Twitter handle… where I follow her, and am pretty sure she definitely IS a GeekMom!

  4. We received this book a few years ago and it is a fav in our house. Yesterday my 6 year old randomly pulled a book from the library called The Monster Princess and we immediately recognized the illustrator’s distinctive style. So glad to see Scary People get some attention!

  5. The illustrator also has a new book coming out in the spring. Its called Take Your Mama to Work Today. I hope to review it…stay tuned!


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