Children’s Books, Seth Meyers, and “I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared”

From an Inside the List story by Elizabeth Egan in the New York Times Book Review headlined “Be Not Afraid? Seth Meyers Thinks That’s Baloney.”:

A late-night talk show host wrote a picture book and it landed on the best-seller list.

This isn’t groundbreaking news; in fact, it has the whiff of a tired punchline, the kind that might land an exasperated boo from members of a studio audience. Can you blame them? Name a funny guy who hasn’t taken his big wheel for a spin around the children’s shelf and I’ll show you … Conan O’Brien. Jimmy Kimmel has “The Serious Goose”; John Oliver has “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo”; Trevor Noah has “Born a Crime,” young readers’ edition; Stephen Colbert has “Whose Boat Is This Boat?”; and Jimmy Fallon has “Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada” and “Everything Is Mama,” among other titles adults may be embarrassed to request at the library.

Last week, Seth Meyers got in on the game with “I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared,” about a cowardly bear, a courageous rabbit and what they learn from each other. Bear sleeps with a bell tied to his door so he’ll know if an intruder crosses his threshold (“Because even a bear that is easily scared is a very heavy sleeper”). Rabbit sleeps with her door wide open and brushes her teeth “while hanging from a tree branch by her ears.” (Daredevil feats are adorably illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr., a former toy designer with a knack for expressive eyeballs.) Not altogether surprisingly, Rabbit persuades Bear to set out on an adventure. Fear ensues, plus mild and pleasant danger — and, of course, teamwork. The moral is simple, with timely echoes of “Free to Be You and Me”: It’s OK to be scared. The trick is to do it with a friend, so you can take turns being each other’s backbone.

Meyers isn’t the only celebrity who’s in the business of galvanizing young readers: Ciara and Russell Wilson’s “Why Not You?,” currently at No. 10 on the picture book list, also gives a gentle nudge to an audience that may not remember life before face masks, nasal swabs and vats of hand sanitizer. On the cover, a pair of caped crusaders plant a flag on a planet illustrated by Jessica Gibson; it says, “The sky’s the limit!” With an assist from the veteran children’s author JaNay Brown-Wood, the singer and the Broncos quarterback encourage kids to follow their dreams, whether they hope to become “an athlete, author, singer or the captain of a crew.” The authors write, “Take a pause, a breath, a moment. Use brilliance as your cue. And then think about this question: Why not you?”

Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of “A Window Opens.”

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