What a magnetic duo. Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist and civil rights campaigner. Jean-Michel Basquiat, the street artist whose posthumous reputation has soared in recent years. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All is a poem of defiance, a lesson in vanquishing childhood fears. And in a lightning strike of inspiration, it’s been paired with a selection of Basquiat’s Neo-Expressionist paintings.
Two iconic American figures and one canny editor, combine to create this vivid call to courage. One of the library classifications for this book is ‘Fear-Poetry,’ and I think that sums it up perfectly.
Remember the dark shadows of childhood? Monsters, big barking dogs, men with fierce moustaches (my daughter’s own personal terror). Maya Angelou takes the young reader’s hand and urges them to summon their inner roar. Roar at that fear.
The shadows on the wall,
All alone at night.
The classroom where the boys pull your hair and the girls ooze spite. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me At All. If you say it over and over like a mantra, can it make it true? Say it again. Say it louder, and hold the words in your mind because they’re your magic charm.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings work brilliantly here, the childlike quality of his work capturing the powerful imaginings of childhood. Many of the paintings are unsettling. Looming, outstretched figures reaching out of the page, fiery chaotic backgrounds. They are works of turmoil and unease.
Along with the animated text, a place is created where children can dispel fear by the power of faith in themselves. A unique book, and one that’s complemented by listening to Maya Angelou’s reading of the poem on YouTube (try below). Her expressive rendition is captivating, and she tells us that she wrote the poem ‘for all children who whistle in the dark and refuse to admit that they’re frightened out of their wits.’
Life doesn’t Frighten Me At All is published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, pages 40.