Written by Tjibbe Veldkamp
Illustrated by Philip Hopman
Tom the Tamer is a gentle story about overcoming fear. Tom organizes circus shows for his father. A trampoline for snails and trapezes for squirrels. No matter what Tom does, his father is still afraid of the bugs and animals that live outside and he never leaves the house. Tom decides to make up a new show. It starts with a Polar bear from the Paws, Claws, Beaks and Bugs pet store. When the bear hears about the purpose of a show for Tom’s father, he wants to help. He pretends to be a big, fuzzy, comfy chair that Dad can sit in. That works so well that bear and Tom go back to the pet store and they recruit lots of other animals to pretend to be normal, indoor things. Dad comes around and touches all of these new “things” until he finds out that they are really animals. Now he knows that he doesn’t need to be afraid since he has touched them and wasn’t hurt by them.
This fearful father and brave boy put a new spin on the theme of overcoming fear. It could be used as a class read aloud for either an animal unit or an emotions unit. The role reversal will be entertaining and will spark conversations about conquering other fears using this “immersion therapy.” The illustrations are line drawings colored in with watercolor, busy with a lot of detail to keep a young reader engaged. Tom has a strong narrative voice so this would be a good choice for literacy activities such as a second grader reading aloud to a younger student in a reading buddies program or a second grader-made audio book.