Agatha and the Dark (Anna Pignataro, The Five Mile Press)
Agatha is a cute half-pig, half-bear hybrid who likes wearing a red, hooded coat—just like Little Red Riding Hood, although Agatha is not happy with the bit in the story where the little girl has to walk through the deep, dark woods—alone. Her kindergarten teacher Miss Tibble reassures the class that everyone is afraid of something—storms, spiders, ghosts, witches—and calmly points out that shadows are nothing to be afraid of. She makes the class paint shadows of themselves that are bright and colourful, but troublemaker George taunts Agatha and convinces her there are actually monsters hiding under her bed. Agatha keeps putting off going to sleep and wants the light left on, and it is only with the help of her parents that Agatha is able to confront her fears. This is a simple story that’s best for the preschooler age-group. The illustrations are created using pencil and light watercolours, with the brightness of Agatha’s red coat (and other red objects) popping out and providing contrast. The classroom is also made up of lots of different animals (so kids can have fun naming them all), and the mixed species parentage of Agatha provides an interesting potential discussion about diversity. Being scared of the dark is a very common problem for children, and Anna Pignataro’s second ‘Agatha’ picture book helps to legitimise and allay any fears that little ones may experience.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue