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The Picture Book Buzz

When You Are Brave - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

We've come to expect amazing, touching books from Pat Zietlow Miller. Her newest one is no exception. Written, as she told me in Monday's interview, as "the book that [she] needed most as a kid. . . and a bit of a pep talk to [herself] when [she] was going through a rough spot in [her] life." I'm glad she shared it with the rest of us; as self-doubt, struggles, and change are universal in everyone's life.

When You Are Brave

Author: Pat Zietlow Miller

Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (2019)

Ages: 4-8



Bravery, internal strength, confidence, and positive attitude.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

An inspiring picture book affirmation about having courage even in difficult times, because some days, when everything around you seems scary, you have to be brave. Saying goodbye to neighbors. Worrying about new friends. Passing through a big city. Seeing a dark road ahead. In these moments, a young girl feels small and quiet and alone. But when she breathes deeply and looks inside herself, a hidden spark of courage appears, one she can nurture and grow until she glows inside and out. New York Times bestselling author Pat Zietlow Miller's uplifting words join New York Times bestselling illustrator Eliza Wheeler's luminous art to inspire young readers to embrace their inner light—no matter what they're facing—and to be brave.

Opening Lines:

Some days,

when everything around

you seems scary . . .

you have to be brave.

Why I LOVE this book:

This is another book where the plot is told through the pictures, rather than the text. Pat wrote a beautiful, uplifting poem, in a direct address to the reader, about the bravery required when you are faced with "days full of things you'd rather not do." It is Eliza Wheeler's illustrations that provide the plot of a child's family moving far away to a new home.

The opening scene, of the young girl standing in an empty room next to her box of treasures, masterfully conveys her fears. The darkness behind her and down the hall, where she has to go, is palpable. If you can't read it, the words in the shadows say, "you have to be brave."

Text © Pat Zietlow Miller, 2019. Image © Eliza Wheeler, 2019.

As the text compares "your" bravery to a bird learning to fly, a dog searching for home, a caterpillar entering its cocoon, and standing alone on stage, Wheeler shows the beginning of the family's relocation trip, with the girl sadly in the back seat looking through a photo album. Leaving all that is familiar to wend through a scary, loud world.

Text © Pat Zietlow Miller, 2019. Image © Eliza Wheeler, 2019.

When the world appears "Too big. Too loud. Too hard. Too much. While you feel . . . Too small. Too quiet. Too tired. Not enough." Wheeler shows us darkening pages and a rainstorm, as the scared young girl clutches her knees and wraps herself in a blanket.

In this darkest moment, Miller suggests that quiet meditation will show you the spark within you. And just look at Wheeler's beautiful interpretation -

Text © Pat Zietlow Miller, 2019. Image © Eliza Wheeler, 2019.

While the text continues in a straightforward poetic manner, explaining how to fan that spark and grow your courage, Wheeler creates sheer magic in her illustrations.

Text © Pat Zietlow Miller, 2019. Image © Eliza Wheeler, 2019.

As the girl's bravery grows, the illustrations lighten. Wait to you see ending. The text and illustrations combine to create a tender, uplifting story. Kirkus compared it to Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López's The Day You Begin (2018), calling it "a sweet lesson on how to glow from the inside out." Be sure that you examine the end pages and peek under the dust cover. This is a great book for anyone needing a boost in confidence, young and old, and a wonderful addition to any library.


- watch Eliza Wheeler's description of her process and choices of color and composition with Victoria Stapleton (;

- make and decorate your own butterfly wings (; or

- draw a picture, write a story, or make a list of how you find your bravery when you are scared, worried, or overwhelmed?

If you missed Pat Zietlow Miller's interview on Monday, see it here.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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