Bella the brave by Rebel Wilson. Illus. by Annabel Tempest

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Bella has a sister Stella who is super confident, but Bella is the opposite. She is too shy to go to parties, too shy to raise her hand in class and too shy to play or talk with other children. 'Bella would watch from the shadows, desperate to take part, But all she could hear was her racing heart'. Many children and adults will identify with this feeling: willing your body or your voice to join in but being frozen with fear. Bella's mum can see this sadness in Bella and decides to try something different. She takes her off to the local girls' choir to help her find her voice and gain self-confidence. At first Bella is wary and reluctant but 'sometimes mums know things and you don't know how' and she gently helps Bella conquer and face her deepest fears. 'Bella, be brave. Time to make a choice. Bella, be bold. Time to find your voice', says a whisper in her head. 

The ending of the story is beautiful in that normalises anxious feelings and butterflies and emphasises that, while these feelings are okay, sometimes we can push through them and feel very proud of ourselves afterwards. This is a wonderfully empowering message that will resonate with plenty of young children and their adults, who might be facing these same 'too shy to try' challenges with their own children. Parents should be wary though, as not all children would respond well to being 'pushed' in this way. The rhyming text is slightly clunky at times but generally reads aloud fairly well. Bold, vibrant, stylish illustrations filled with beautifully patterned butterflies complement the bouncy rhyme.

Themes: Bravery, Confidence, Rhyming Story.

Nicole Nelson