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Mini-Review: Anxiety + Fearing the New (The Scary Autumn Thing)

by Katie Engen, M.Ed

This is part of a "mini review" series that examines different types of anxiety as portrayed in nine picture books, offering readers an opportunity for social-emotional learning.

To an anxious kid, sometimes the well-intentioned message of "of course you can do this" leads them in over their heads. A new activity may start out swimmingly -- then bumpity-bump, a few factors change, and a fear of the new thing sets in. Paralysis and self-doubt can result.

It’s reassuring for children to learn that they can reassess and recover from these bumps. Sometimes it just takes a little time, and a compassionate friend.

Little Frog and the Scary Autumn Thing is a deceptively simple story that shows Little Frog joyfully exploring her environment, until she notices the green forest around her pond has changed to unfamiliar colors. The newness and change frightens her. Mama Frog assures her that, “Most things that are scary are only just new. You need to see what they are all about…Once you know them, they aren’t scary anymore.” Little Frog tries again -- but -- the many different sounds, smells, scenes become overwhelming.

Tiny missteps are magnified and the new is now just scary. But Papa Frog emerges at just the right time, ready to help, if Little Frog will engage with him. And while picture book purists may balk at the “Adult Fixes It” plot twist, real life sometimes works best when good help is offered - and taken - in good time.


Younger readers can list or draw the helpers they know at home, school, place of worship, or community. This Park Ranger – Real Rescue Hero video (90-seconds) from Fischer-Price™ can expand the list. They also may enjoy trying breathing exercises with Jacob the Frog.

Older kids could think of some key helpers, like personal friends or professionals, that they know they can call upon. They also can search for ‘calming apps frogs’ to find a full pond of digital aids, including chirping frog soundtracks or even a classic game of Frogger to use as a brief resetting activity before dealing with a difficult moment.


Katie O’Brien Engen, M.Ed, currently works in private practice to mentor students with executive functioning and language processing challenges. She also writes stories and cross-curricular lessons to engage young minds with big ideas, does writing work for hire, and reviews books for various kidlit outlets. Katie is fueled by faith and laughter, and rarely is she too busy for family, sports, or ice cream. She lives in Maryland where one of her favorite runs is the ~10 miles to the Washington Monument in D.C. Learn more about Katie here.


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