Megan Higginson (text) and Ester de Boer (illustrator), Raymund and the Fear Monster, Blue Brumby Books, October 2019, 48 pp., RRP $26.95 (pbk), 9780648338116
In a dark and gloomy forest at the top of an enormous mountain, high above a little village, lived a monster as tiny as a teeny bat. So begins Raymund and the Fear Monster, a powerful story about agency and overcoming your fears. Fear doesn’t stay tiny for long. In fact, it grows to monstrous proportions, feeding off the worries and anxieties of others, wreaking havoc in the town at night … until Raymund summons his courage and decides to confront the beast that’s keeping him from enjoying life like all his friends.
Featuring a main character that children will relate to, this self-published picture book and debut title from Higginson doesn’t disappoint. The layered, atmospheric story reads like a fable, drawing in readers from the opening words. The text is lengthy for a picture book but flows well, though at times I thought a tighter narrative would more seamlessly support De Boer’s sophisticated ink drawings. Indeed, the world that De Boer has painstakingly created is fantastical – rich in detail, imagery and meaning, and simply a delight to behold.
This clever story for children ages 5+ years was inspired by the author’s visit to an orphanage as part of a Mission trip to the Philippines. There, she connected with the children on many levels, including the fears that they expressed. Higginson too had lived with fear for many years … until one day, like Raymund, she woke up and said, Enough!
We all have fears, whether or not we admit it, and it is only very late in life that I am facing up to my own. Offering useful talking points about a complex topic, Raymund and the Fear Monster engenders a sense of hope, making it a valuable resource for families and perhaps even in a clinical setting.
Reviewed by Maura Pierlot