Teaching kids to be brave
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Little Book About Bravery, Rick DeLucco. It has been edited for clarity.
What is bravery?
Bravery is about what you do when faced with danger, fears, anxieties, or difficulties. When we think about being brave, we probably think of saving someone from a dragon or doing a really big jump on your bike or other more serious things like fighting fires or standing up for someone else.
But bravery isn't just about big heroic acts. I think bravery can also be smaller everyday things like focusing on your breathing, talking to someone you love, asking for a hug, holding someone's hand, closing your eyes really tight. And I think all of these things we can do when faced with our fears and can help overcome them.
Well, Rick, I'm so glad that we get to talk today together. It's neat to be interviewing an author that is also a colleague of mine, but I also get to have that vantage point of seeing the brave things that you do in your job, and then getting to talk to you about bravery.
So could you tell me a little more, Rick, about what bravery looks like, maybe what it looks like in your life or what it has looked like in your life, or maybe even what it looks like in your family’s life.
Yeah. I mean, I think that a big thing that's happening with my family right now is we're moving from Portland, Oregon, and we're moving to Hawaii.
I'm on O’ahu and there's a big transpacific move happening and I think that myself, my wife and my two sons—we're all trying to have as much bravery as possible right now. There's a lot of, a lot of transition for all of us.
I've lived in Portland for 15 years and that's a big deal. But I think we're taking things step by step. And I think one of the big things that I try to talk about in the book is just that element of taking your time and slowing things down. Taking big breaths. And just being able to take things step by step and know that it's going to be okay if you just kind of slow things down.
I'm sure in your family, you talk a lot about bravery, but I also wonder for all of us listening, if you have ideas for how we can talk to others in our life about being brave, whether it's a time when we want to help someone with strength to be brave or talking about our own bravery, as a means of giving strength to someone else, how, how have you talked to other people about bravery?
That's a really great question and one of the big reasons why I wrote this book was for my son, George. When I was a little kid, I dealt with a lot of anxiety—- anxieties around school, change, transition. When he was about three, and I think a lot of three-year-olds deal with this, I was starting to see some similar things and I wanted to make sure that I was supporting him as much as I could.
I know that at least for George and I, we established really early on just a lot of open communication and talking about what makes us afraid. And I think that's kind of the first step is trying to name it in a way. And we just talked openly about, you know, what exactly we were afraid of.
And I think that helps me process my anxieties now as an adult is just trying to name it and understand what I almost automatically do to cope with those and how those coping skills are also really brave things, you know. I don't think that those things get highlighted as much in stories that we read on television, that we watch cartoons, that my kids consume.
You know, you see a lot of just big heroic things. Those are great. Superheroes are awesome. I love comic books, but what about the smaller things that we do? And what about those things, maybe even not small, but just everyday things that we do to cope?
And are we being kind to others? That's a really brave thing as well. You know, not even just internally, but externally. What are we doing?
Agreed. All that bravery on top of bravery. You're right. In things that we can reflect this small act you're doing really is an act of bravery. Then speaking of what may have felt at first, like a small act, Rick, I'd love for you to tell us a little bit about creating a book for young readers. What was it like to create A Little Book About Bravery?
It was really interesting.
The story there was really funny. I'm a graphic designer and illustrator for A Kids Book About, and have been illustrating for years and been book designing for a long time. So you know, working with Jelani at A Kids Book About. When I first started, he was just kinda like, “You know, we want to try to tap into board books and I want you to explore what that could look like.”
So right away I was like, oh, this is great. This is right up my alley. I'm really excited.
It was really funny. I started working one night and I worked until really late. It was like 2:00 AM and I just wasn't really getting anything. I just ended up going to bed, laying there for a long time with my eyes closed, just not being able to fall asleep.
It was about 4:00 AM and all of a sudden an idea popped in my head. And I opened my eyes, I grabbed my phone and started jotting this story down. And I wrote the story right then and there, at 4:00 AM, laying in bed with my son, George, and my wife.
And I went to sleep after that, [I] felt really good. Went to sleep. I think like every creative thing that you're doing, like late at night, you have to sleep on it and wake up and see if it's still okay and good. So I woke up the next morning, or that morning, and read it again. And I was like, “Hey, this isn't bad. Like there's some changes that need to happen, but this isn't bad.”
So I used it as a design [exploration] and illustrated the book and, you know, designed the thing front to back. And presented it to Jelani and he loved it. He thought, “This is a great first go.”
And so I think the funniest thing is that it was just never my intention for this book to really be published. But Jelani loved it so much that he told me that he wanted to include it in the first collection.
And I was just thrilled. I was just thrilled.
I have a favorite spread. I have a favorite spread from the book. Do you have a favorite spread that you can share with readers? We will have to describe the art a little bit and then when people go and find the book, they can, they can find it too.
What's your favorite spread, Rick?
You know, it is hard to choose, because I feel so partial to all of them. But I think one spread that I keep going back to all the time is this spread talking about a one-eyed drooling blob monster and it's this green blob monster. And he's got this one big eye in the center.
He's got these two front teeth sticking out of a smile and this drool kind of hanging down and he's got pink spots on him and he's chilling. I describe it in the book as you know, bravery is, yeah, you can talk to a big monster and that's really brave.
That's a brave thing for sure. But, you know, deep in my mind, I'm like, “This guy's really cute. Actually. I really think this character is so cute. I don't see who would be afraid of this little cute character.”
I love the page after that you have a child just closing eyes, breathing in. The text reads, “When you're afraid, bravery can be as simple as taking a big, deep breath.” And I love that spread Rick, because I can feel my body wanting to mimic what the character is doing on the page. I really like that.
Thank you. Yeah. I think that was something that kind of hit close to home as a part of my exercise is when I'm feeling anxiety or feeling afraid. It's just something that I try to do is just kind of slow things down and take a big deep breath and kind of close my eyes and try to refocus.
When we, the readers, read that artwork, connecting with you, that's really neat. Exactly.
Well, so I want to close our conversation together by asking, thinking of those readers, if there's a message about bravery that you'd like to share with our listeners.
Yeah. I want everyone to know that if you're afraid or feeling anxious, it's okay to slow down and take your time.
For instance, I was a little nervous about this interview, but I reminded myself to slow down. I talked to my wife and my loved ones and I did some breathing exercises and I felt more ready to go than it was before. So I think that that's just something that you can try to practice when you're starting to feel your heart thump a little bit quicker.
You can just kind of get in there and you can just try to refocus and slow down a little bit. And I think you'll be a little bit more ready to go.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. Today we’re kicking off a special series of episodes with the authors and illustrators of our A Little Book About series. This episode we have Rick DeLucco, the author of A Little Book About Bravery.