Some Things Are Scary

Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Robert Osborn (1969)

I picked this book out at a school bookmobile event. Something about that title just resonated for me. The text lists a clever mixture of actual scary things (stepping on something squishy when you’re barefoot), standard scary things (witches), and ridiculous scary things (an apple with a mustache). But it was the illustrations that I found both hilarious and inspiring. The glob of food “that you know you’re not going to like” has an evil grin and tentacles. The legs of the girl who has to talk to a strange grown-up are just zigzaggy lines of sheer terror. These weren’t the neat, finished drawings I was used to in picture books—they were exaggerated, sketchy (some kids don’t have noses), spiky, and wild. Some of them seemed closer to children’s drawings than adult illustrations.

It turns out the illustrator, Robert Osborn, was a satiric cartoonist for the most part, not someone who spent the majority of his career in children’s books. But his touch here was perfect for the material and also a revelation to me: “Real” drawings could be zany and scribbly and lack noses. Going a bit wild wasn’t necessarily wrong or scary. Let’s just say that’s a lesson I’m still learning.

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