Thanks to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of A Case of the Zaps for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
A Case of the Zaps
Written by Alex Boniella and April Lavalle | Illustrated by James Kwan
On Robot-Earth there lived a robot named 3.14159… (“or Pi, for short”). Pi liked doing things most young robots did, like “playing music, walking their dog, and hanging out with their Parental Units and friends. Pi also liked sports, science, camping, and exploring, and their favorite food was DW-40. One day at school, their teacher announced that in a month the class would be going on a field trip to Olde Silicon Valley.
All of Pi’s classmates were excited about the trip, and “Pi felt their circuit board BUZZ with anticipation.” Pi couldn’t stop thinking about the trip. But along with all the fun things they would do, thoughts about what could go wrong crept into his consciousness. And then, unexpectedly, while walking home from school with their friends, Pi experienced a tingle in their arms and then their “defense mechanisms JOLTED on.” Pi’s friends asked if they were all right.
Pi wasn’t sure and took off for home, “feeling zaps all around. Feeling afraid for reasons they didn’t quite understand.” The intrusive thoughts kept Pi awake that night, and during the next few days, even though Pi tried to act calm, they felt anything but. Trying not to think about the field trip just made things worse. One night they couldn’t even eat their DW-40, and then… ZAP!
Pi ran to their room and shut the door. Pi’s “Mother-Board and Father-Board followed their robo-kid upstairs. When they asked through the door what was wrong, Pi admitted that they didn’t want to go on the field trip anymore. They they explained that “something feels wrong” and how all their gears and sensors seemed to be in overdrive. Pi confessed “‘I’m scared I might be . . . broken.'”
Pi was surprised to find that just telling their parents made them feel better. Pi’s Father-Board told them that they had had the zaps when he started his new job and that “‘cousin Cosine Tangent has had them for years.'” Pi was surprised because Cosine Tangent had recently won a major science award. Mother-Board suggested that they visit the doctor the next day.
Doctor Bleep Bloop was very friendly and welcoming. The doctor explained to Pi that the Zaps can happen to anyone and at any time and acknowledged that they can be scary. When Pi asked if there was any cure for the Zaps, Doctor Bleep Bloop was honest and told them “‘There isn’t a simple cure.'” The doctor went on to say, though, that there were ways of managing the Zaps and that they could work together to find strategies to help Pi.
By the time the field trip to Olde Silicone Valley came around, Pi was ready to go, and they had a lot of fun. Even after the trip, Pi sometimes felt the Zaps. “When that happened, Pi used the tools that Dr. Bleep Bloop had shared with them, and then the Zaps didn’t feel quite so scary.”
Back matter includes an Authors Note explaining how both Alex and April have experienced anxiety in their lives as well as online resources where parents and caregivers can find more information and help from professionals in the areas of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Experiencing anxiety can be scary and confusing, and without the language to describe what is happening to them, children can feel isolated and alone. Alex Boniello and April Lavalle’s A Case of the Zaps provides kids and adults with a straightforward way to comfortably talk about anxiety while offering reassurance and a road map to discovering coping strategies that can help. Descriptions of the physical and mental effects of anxiety on Pi give kids direct examples to point to when talking about their own emotions and experiences with their parents, caregivers, or doctors. Pi’s parents’ suggestion to visit the doctor gives adults a starting point on the journey to helping their children.
James Kwan’s vibrant illustrations, incorporating elements of comics and graphic novels, will enchant kids as they learn about Pi’s hobbies, family life, and excitement to visit Olde Silicone Valley. As Pi’s enthusiasm for the field trip turns to trepidation, kids can watch the robot’s expressive face change from happy to worried and fearful. They also see that anxiety causes physical effects, sleeplessness, depleted energy, and the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism to kick in. After the family’s visit with Dr. Bleep Bloop, Kwan’s depictions of calming activities Pi does with their mother-board and father-board, friends, and the doctor show readers that therapy can be found in many places from play to sports to yoga and more.
Honest, accessible, sprinkled with humor, and written in partnership with Child Mind Institute to ensure that the book can serve as a social-emotional tool, A Case of the Zaps is an outstanding book for talking about anxiety with any child. The book is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for classroom, school, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419756726
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