How Danny Found His Brave, by Kerry Orchard, illustrated by Roberto Gonzalez
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Author’s Den/Burroughs Manor Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
There are plenty of children who are fairly timid and easily frightened, and admittedly as someone who has struggled with PTSD since very early childhood I can relate more than most people would to this story. Nevertheless, this story certainly has a lot that would appeal to children who want to be brave and think of themselves as heroic . I found the story enjoyable to read and one that even seemed to resemble the author’s other work, showing a certain shared universe behind all the books I have read by the author so far. Among the more important aspects of this book is the way that it encourages empathy on the part of the reader and looks at the way that bravery and courage are issues for a wide variety of people. Provoking empathy in a way that is entertaining and inspirational is certainly a worthwhile job and this book looks like the kind of book that would be entertaining for children and also enjoyable for adults to read to them and to ask questions about.
The book itself is a straightforward tale but there are some surprises along the way. We open with our titular hero Danny, a boy who is afraid of everything, the sort of person who is terrified of his own shower and constantly fleeing from what frightens him, encouraged to ask a yellow dragon to return his brave. He then finds out that his father has lost his brave as well and Danny turns from panicky and frightened child to a heroic youth who wants to fight on behalf of a surprisingly vulnerable adult whose brave has been stolen by a particularly dangerous red dragon. This sets Danny out on an epic quest to recover his own brave and his father’s that he undertakes late at night. Of course, in his epic quest he meets some horrifying trolls that he manages to defeat with a wooden sword and also rescues that yellow dragon who was threatened by the trolls and who turns out to be surprisingly timid himself with only Danny’s brave, as the red dragon had taken the remaining braves that he had possessed. The book ends on a cliffhanger with Danny charging off toward the red dragon to recover his father’s brave, with the possibility of a sequel as well as the knowledge that even without his “brave” that Danny is a pretty courageous boy.
Although the book is admittedly a children’s book with a fair amount of silliness–what exactly is a “brave” anyway–the book does manage to provoke some serious questions. What do the yellow and red dragon represent? What is it that made Danny so afraid in the first place? Why does he face such terrors in the night? What was it that robbed his father of his courage, and what does Danny hope to win back? There are the hints in this book of a darker back story where Danny is part of a dysfunctional family with generational issues that must be struggled bravely if they are to be overcome. Be that as it may, these are only hints. Danny’s struggle to gain his courage is portrayed in a way where the internal psychodrama of children or those who are children at heart is transmuted into a vivid struggle with creatures of fantasy lore like trolls and dragons, who prove to be beings with their own surprising vulnerabilities. One wonders if this is the way that child psychologists try to convince timid and tormented children that the world is not such a scary place after all.
 See, for example: