Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez
Pictures by Jess Golden
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company 2018
Age range 4-6 years.
Reviewed by Cath Young
Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez is the story of a young girl who learns how to deal with her anxiety as she auditions for a Ballet. It presents the complex character of Pilar with empathy and deals with her anxiety in a realistic way. Pilar does not suddenly learn how to feel less anxious, even about Ballet, which she loves. However, with support from her Mother and friend, Sebastian, she auditions despite her worries and allows her dancing to assume the important role it plays in her life. Other than an occasional reminder to “breathe”, Pilar’s Mother, her Teacher and Sebastian, accept Pilar as she is. They allow her to make her own decisions about whether or not to audition and do not teach techniques for dealing with anxiety but rather offer some validation and reflections along the way such as, “If you decide to audition you will feel scared. But usually when you are doing what you love the good feelings are so big that the bad feelings become small.”
The book describes the physical manifestations of anxiety which children and parents may be able to discuss, such as butterflies in the stomach, tension, heart racing and hot, prickly skin. There is some humour in the book, courtesy of the character of Sabastian, who also feels nervous before the auditions and shares with Pilar that he “want(s) to barf!” Pilar’s classmates react positively to Sebastian’s announcement that both he and Pilar are going to be snowflakes in the upcoming production. The acceptance of a male ballet dancer in the class is a subtle, but important device in underscoring the idea of societal acceptance of varying expressions of individuality and gender.
The full-page illustrations by Jess Golden are rendered in mostly pastel colours, which supports the gentle tone of the text. The figures are simply drawn, with a pencil like outline. Attention is paid to the expressions on Pilar’s face which would allow for discussion between reader and listener.
The book includes a short list of selected resources about childhood anxiety.