Williams, Linda. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. Illustrated by Megan Lloyd. HaperCollins, 1986. 32 pages. Tr. $18.89, ISBN 978-0-690-04586-4
It started with a pair of shoes. A pair of shoes, moving all by themselves, in the pathway of a little old lady alone in the woods. Some might run at such a sight, but not her, for this little old lady was not afraid of anything. She just told the shoes to move out of her way, and kept on walking. But it doesn’t end there. Soon, a pair of pants, a shirt, gloves, a hat, and a pumpkin head appear as well. The little old lady has to struggle to remain brave and keep her wits about her, but soon she comes up with a solution that satisfies everyone (and everything).
The text and pictures of this story artfully build as the number of items following the lady increases and the tension rises. As the story progress the pace quickens and each additional item brings its own sound effect that adds to the chorus of noises until it climaxes with the final item whose ‘boo boo’ sound effect is allowed its own page for full impact. The pictures mirror this progression beginning with the warm colors of the house and then entering the monochromatic woods with the little old lady’s dress the only bright spot. The bright hues increase with the addition of each item set against the dark backdrop until a chaos of colors appears as the little old lady runs back to the safety of her warm house. In its confines she can calm down and think of a solution to her problem.
This story is great for emergent readers because of its patterned language and its friendly format. The text always appears separately from the pictures so emergent readers can distinguish between them easily. The language follows a pattern: each thing the lady encounters results in another item and an accompanying twice-repeated sound effect being added to the list of items following the old lady. The little old lady reacts the same way to each item until the end so that children will be able to anticipate what will be said next. The lady’s final display of bravery and her idea of having the items combine into a scare crow so that they can be useful while still being able to enjoy being scary provides children with inspiration to be brave, understand others’ needs, and find clever ways to solve problems.