Overcoming Fear

October 7, 2009

My mind relives the narrative, The Forest by Claire A. Nivola, over and over after each reading.  I do not recall the first time I came across this book, but the text is one that strikes at the core of emotion:  fear.  I, the reader, am intrigued and sucked in to the mind of the character from the beginning.  What an emotional lead!

I had always been afraid of the forest, that dark and unknown place at the farthest edge of my little world.  At night I often dreamed of it and woke chilled with fear.  The fear was there in the day, too, hidden inside me no matter what I did or where I went.”

The main character is Mouse.  The narrative is shared through first-person, inviting you in to Mouse’s thoughts and feelings from the beginning.  Mouse is afraid.  The fear nags at him until one day he decides to face the fear by venturing out to the forest.  All the way, Mouse has internal conflict – should he continue or return home to his safe haven?

I believe many children have fears that nag at them.  Some fears are real; most are just insecurity or uncertainty.  As you read this book to children,  the narrative invites prediction.  How will Mouse survive?  Will he follow through?  The text is also an excellent example to teach inference or show, don’t tell.

“Leaping for cover, I tripped and fell headlong to the ground, Lie still, I thought; if you cry or move, you will be found.  Could my thundering heart be heard outside my head?”

You must read it.  At the end of the page with the above quote, you, the reader, are left hanging.  What will happen next?  As you turn the page, the illustration brightens and you immediately sense a change with the setting.  “The sunlight was raining down through the leaves and warming my back.  A sweet breeze stirred my fur.  I was alive!”

Savorings for reading and in writing for The Forest:

  • Symbolism – “In the morning, standing in the doorway of my home, I saw the cozy chair by the fire, my warm bed, the objects I loved.  I turned and closed the door behind me.”
  • Emotional – ‘my heart began to race
  • Show don’t Tell (Inference) – “Uneasy, I looked back at my village – a dot in the distance.”
  • Repeating Structure – “But would I lose myself?  Would I be devoured by some wild creature?  Would I die of fear?”
  • Grabber Lead
  • Internal Conflict
  • Predictions