By K. A. Cummins
Eleonora Press, 2023
Paper: $16.99
Genre: Juvenile, Picture Book
Reviewed by Lisa Harrison

Bold and Brave book cover

Author and illustrator K. A. Cummins pens an engaging story drawn from her own experiences as an autistic person in her second children’s picture book. Elementary school student Lily eagerly anticipates singing a solo during the evening’s choir concert. She is distressed to learn that she must wear the choir uniform rather than her favorite red polka dot shirt. Lily is autistic and wearing the cheerful print “makes her feel bold and brave.” She is afraid she will feel “tiny” without the reassurance of her beloved design, her preferred way to feel confident in over-stimulating environments. But her parents have a plan: red polka dot socks! Adorned in her new footwear, animal-loving Lily begins to associate the socks with animal groupings: “socks come in pairs/ Pairs come in packs/ Maybe the wild sock pairs belong to a wild pack/Like the wild yak packs/That roam the Himalayas.” At the concert, when the feeling of being tiny begins to overtake her, Lily’s parents have a final surprise to help her feel both “bold and brave” and part of a special “pack.”

Cummins effectively conveys the manner in which Lily experiences the world through her detailed drawings, use of color, and textual descriptions of noises that youngsters will enjoy sounding out. Illustrations include representatives of various ethnic groups, and Lily’s family appears multi-cultural, with parents of different skin tones and Lily a blending of the two, giving the book a broad appeal. A Biblical quote as a preface, mention of prayer, and a Christmas song lend a Christian tone.

Bold & Brave affords parents the opportunity to share with children ways to make themselves feel comfortable in their environments. Discussion questions at the end include topics of how to deal with strong emotions, personal methods to feel “brave,” and how parents can be involved. These subjects can be useful for all families to reflect on, while educating non-autistic children about the experiences of their autistic peers.

K.A. Cummins is an award-winning author and an artist. She seeks to offer readers adventurous narratives that spark imagination and inspire grace for themselves and for others. When not crafting stories, Cummins loves spending time with her family, collecting fun socks, and venturing outside her comfort zone to try new things—at least once!

Lisa Harrison is an avid reader who spent 15 years in the book publishing industry. When not curled up with a cup of tea, a book, and a rescued cat or two (or more), she enjoys all varieties of needlecrafts.