June 12, 2019

I'm Worried

Written by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
978-1-5344-1586-7
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
June 2019

While I am loathe to call any book bibliotherapeutic, there is something reassuring and healing about Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi's books that offer children a comforting perspective on common emotions with which they may be dealing. Here, they tackle, with great sensitivity and much humour, the worry that comes from dwelling on the future and the possibility that bad things might happen.
From I'm Worried, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, text by Michael Ian Black
When Potato shares with his friends that he is worried, he may say it could be anything but he's visualizing snakes, spiders, a meteorite crashing to earth, a marauding T-Rex, an alien reading about cooking with potatoes, an erupting volcano, a pop quiz, and even a circus clown. Though he'd like the little girl to reassure him that nothing bad will ever happen, the insightful child knows that she cannot do so "because nobody know what's going to happen."
From I'm Worried, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, text by Michael Ian Black
That, regrettably, gets Flamingo worrying too. So the girl gives them examples of when bad things did happen, from bruising to a struggle with peanut butter and even a broken arm, and reminds them that they survived and some good even came from those experiences.
All of those things were bad at first...
...but over time they turned out okay.
From I'm Worried, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, text by Michael Ian Black
Unfortunately Flamingo's solution is to protect them in bubble wrap. Fortunately, when that goes awry, the girl's suggestion that living in the moment might be preferable to worrying about the future seems to work.

In our stressful lives of competitive activities, intense social media and uncertainty about the future, it's not surprising that children are now far more anxious about life than in generations earlier. We might wish their lives to be filled with more play and for them to demonstrate more resilience but we're not giving them that kind of a world. So, without preaching mindfulness, Michael Ian Black proposes simply "enjoying the now" and it seems that, with a few friends, anything can be tolerated.

Just as she did in I'm Bored (2012) and I'm Sad (2018), Debbie Ridpath Ohi's illustrations give life to Michael Ian Black's text. From the perceptive little girl with her flower barrettes and striped tights, to the fuchsia flamingo and the potato with dramatic eyebrows and even worry lines, Debbie Ridpath Ohi makes the simple detailed, giving spirit and personality through her bold palette and wobbly edges. (I don't know what it is about those edges that I adore. Maybe it's the depth or dimensionality they create but they make me smile.)
From I'm Worried, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, text by Michael Ian Black
There will be, of course, some children for whom I'm Worried will not be enough to allay their worries. However, for many, the lesson that living in the moment, enjoying the goodness of friends and the immediacy of the task at hand, will be enough to ground and hopefully help endure the unknowns of the future.


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