Kids books are fun and educational, but they also let kids safely explore experiences that might make them anxious. The books reviewed here today do just that.

The first two books deal with the fear of swimming. In “No Swimming for Nelly” by Valeri Gorbachev, Nelly is delighted when she receives a new swimming suit. She wears it everywhere — to eat, to play, to sleep — but not in the water. Nelly firmly declares that the water and swimming scare her. Then one day Nelly and her mom take a trip to Grandma’s house. Nelly discovers that Grandma was a champion swimmer who won many trophies. As Grandma demonstrates her swimming, Nelly is won over and tries a dip in the pool herself. A blurb on the dust jacket declares this book to be “a story about taking risks, conquering fears, and abounding trust.” The fact that Nelly is a pig adds a touch of whimsy to the softly illustrated tale.

In “Saturday is Swimming Day” by Hyewon Yum, a little girl suffers from a series of stomach aches on Saturday mornings which happen to be swim lesson days. Gradually, she goes from not going into the water at all to tentatively letting her swim instructor buoy her in the water. She begins by taking little steps, like practicing her kicks in the bathtub. As she builds up her confidence, she realizes she has no more stomach aches on Saturdays. Touches of humor and warmth reinforce the girl’s feelings in the story. For example, she doesn’t go in the pool on the first day, but she wets her hair down in the shower to look like everyone else. Kids will see that the little girl’s persistence pays off as she floats freely in the pool like a starfish at the end.

Our last selection explores the fear of dogs. In “Ben and the Scaredy-Dog” by Sarah Ellis, illustrated by Kim LaFave, Ben is excited when a new family moves across the street. He is delighted that they have a child his age, but then he is horrified to learn that they also have a big dog. To Ben, dogs are all “jaws and teeth.” Ben eventually goes over to play at the new kid’s house and discovers that their dog, Max, is afraid, too. He doesn’t like the slippery floors in the new house. Soon Ben and Max become comfortable with each other. The illustrations enhance the story, especially the scary dogs that Ben draws when he thinks about being afraid. The real Max is much less scary.

We invite you to stop by the Community Library to check out these or other books that will entertain children and help calm their fears.

Off the Shelves is published Sundays. Each week a different Kenosha Public Library or Community Library staff member organizes reviews of a handful of books available through the library system.

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