Book Review: All Kinds of Courage

If children sometimes fear monsters under their beds, what would a monster fear? In Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale (Farrar, Straus, $16; ages 4 to 8), we meet Bobo, an anxious young monster who’s afraid to sleep in his own bed because of the child under it – a boy with “pink skin and orange fur on his head where his horns should be.”

But Bobo has a special friend in Boo-Dad – “the biggest, baddest monster grampa ever.” Over the perfect meal of hot bug juice and bread slathered with jitterbug jam, the two figure out how to confront Bobo’s fear. In this, her first book, Barbara Jean Hicks inventively plays with language and plot. Alexis Deacon matches her wit with surreal paintings that capture the humor and surprise in a story ripe for reading aloud with flair.

For courage on a larger scale, be inspired by The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (Harcourt, $16; all ages). All librarians are heroes, but Alia Muhammad Baker physically saved her library of Basra, Iraq, in 2003. With the country’s libraries endangered by war, she took it upon herself to save her library’s 30,000 precious books – one by one, organizing friends to help. While the National Library collection in Baghdad was destroyed, this Basra librarian was able to save 70 percent of her collection before her building burned. Currently, she is planning the rebuilding process. “In the Koran,” she points out, “the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.’” In words and pictures, Jeanette Winter eloquently distills the true story in a way children can understand.