My little girl comes to me in the middle of the night. Crying, she asks me how to stop worrying. She’s struggled with anxiety for years now, even though she’s still young.
I wish I could offer her five easy steps that would rid of her all of her troubles, forever. I wish I knew a solution that would calm her fears. We pray, and then I walk her through the usual late-night reminders:
- Talk to God; He wants to hear your heart.
- Think about things that are pure and true and good.
- Sing hymns that will turn your heart back to the gospel.
- Tell yourself stories that remind you that although evil is real, good always prevails.
This scene has happened over and over again with my sweet girl. Courage can’t be taught in a series of steps, and it’s hard to practice until you’re faced with a situation that demands it.
My friend Cindy Cage believes that “beauty and truth can escort us out of dark days with our hope intact.” Having faced her own suffering and grief, Cage has released a new picture book, Courageous, with the goal of reminding readers that they too can be courageous when life is hard.
Written in verse and accompanied by Cage’s beautiful watercolor illustrations, Courageous retells the stories of nine literary heroines, each of whom faced hardships. Some characters, like Dorothy Gale and Nancy Drew, will be familiar to young readers, while others, like Lizzie Bennet and Scout Finch, may only be recognized by older readers. But what matters isn’t an existing relationship with the characters; it’s how we are all able to relate to their challenges. Readers who grieve with Jo March or learn self-control with Anne Shirley already know that life is often hard. But their stories remind us that hardship is temporary, and good always prevails.
Written specifically for middle-grade girls, Courageous is a book about books, but it’s not just that. It’s a primer on what makes literary characters great in their fictional worlds and how we might be like them in ours; it’s about girls and women enduring and overcoming. Courageous reminds readers that nobody is courageous when life is easy. Courage is reserved for scared people who need it and don’t necessarily think they have it.
I want my children to read great books, because I want them to see, as often as possible, stories about brave, perseverant characters. Courageous highlights the traits of these characters, making them accessible to readers big and small. We live in a fallen world where every child will find themselves in a situation where they must be brave, where the right choice may not be the easy one. Giving them stories can help them see what virtues they need to grow in and what kind of person and friend they want to be.
Stories feed our children’s minds and spirits the same way food feeds their bodies. I want my children to feast on books with characters who point them to hope, who are brave and honest and kind. Courageous showcases characters who embody these virtues, giving my children role models they can access at any time—all they have to do is open the book.