Most of the common fears tackled in children’s books tend to be of the imaginary variety, such as monsters in the dark; or they are personal in nature, such as a fear of water, heights, attempting something new, etc. Thus, it’s refreshing to find a book that explores the hard-to-pin-down fear of ostensibly “scary” people that one may encounter in everyday life.
The Little Bit Scary People centres around a little girl who tells us about some of these “little bit scary” people she meets in her neighbourhood, like the young, punky-looking boy on a skateboard playing loud music on a boom-box, or her classmate in school who behaves oddly and talks to herself. But as she describes why each of the characters may be perceived to be “little bit scary”, she also very level-headedly defends them by imagining them in far-from-scary circumstances, like the punky boy whom she imagines “kisses his cat on the head and scratches her neck until she purrs”, or the odd classmate who is just like any regular girl after school, learning to ride a bike with her mom’s help.
This is a great book that helps to reassure children by rationalising their often-unspoken fear about random people or authority figures they may encounter, and encourages them not to simply judge others on the surface. Unfortunately, people — especially grown-ups, ironically — tend to be quick to judge and label others to be a certain way, so this is a good reminder that there is more than one facet to a person, which may not be immediately obvious. As the girl wisely says, some people can seem a little bit scary (or some other unflattering characteristic), but most times, they really are not.