Anna Pignataro, Agatha and the Dark, Five Mile Press, Oct 2016, 32pp., $19.95 (hbk), ISBN 9781760402075
It’s hard not to fall in love with dear little Agatha, who has her “mother’s ears and her father’s nose”. This captivating preschooler, conjured by Anna Pignataro, has returned with a look at childhood phobias. Agatha is afraid of the dark. She is a huge fan of Little Red Riding Hood (she even has the same hooded coat), but doesn’t like the part about the dark woods.
At kindergarten, Agatha’s fear surfaces during a storm, egged on by a troublesome classmate. The teacher tells the class that everyone is afraid of something, whether it is spiders, balloons, or thunder. She then shows the children how to paint cheerful shadows. But poor Agatha’s fear is compounded when she is accidentally locked in the art supplies cupboard.
Back home, her fear remains and she tries to prolong bedtime. Eventually, with a little help from her parents, she is forced to confront her fear and find a positive way use her imagination.
Pignataro’s pencil sketches, accentuated with bold dashes of colour, breathe life into the poignant characters. The text is sensitive and sweet, offering reassurance to imaginative preschool-aged children as they attempt to navigate common fears.
Reviewed by Penny Harrison