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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will learn several vocabulary words related to fear, including allodoxaphobia (the fear of other people's opinions of oneself) enissophobia (the fear of being criticized), and even sciurophobia (fear of squirrels). In addition, kids will learn the term "Valhalla," a postmortem resting place for slain soldiers in Norse mythology.
Even when your feelings of anxiety seem to form one amorphous and threatening cloud, you can take meaningful steps forward by trying to distill the causes behind them. Family will stick by your side, even if your superficial differences suggest otherwise. Sometimes family members are trying to help even if they show it in awkward or uncomfortable ways. Help them help you and let their love for you outshine their inability to articulate it well.
Positive Role Models
Erik is from a White family that maintains a deep engagement with their Viking heritage. Almost all other characters are White. Erik works hard to confront his fears and anxiety throughout the novel, not shying away from the fact that they are a problem for him, and his sister Brunhilde compassionately works hard to help Erik out while maintaining strong confidence in herself and in her readiness to fight difficulties, conquer imagined enemies, and always say what she means. Generally, the male and female members of the family alike stick up for and support one another, even if their characterization is sometimes a little flat and unrealistically Viking-like.
Violence & Scariness
A large fish clamps on to one character's arm while he is fishing, but there's no blood. One character accidentally punches another's chest, knocking the wind out of him. There's a great deal of talk about conquering and going into battle, including frequent talk about (but not display of) axes and knives.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Erik vs. Everything, by Christina Uss (The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle), is a funny novel about a 9-year-old's journey to confront his intense feelings of fear and anxiety. Although Erik is growing up in a family of Viking descendants, all of whom regularly act fearless and ready to charge into life's difficulties without hesitation, Erik remains intensely afraid of everything, from piano lessons to school to ringing phones to squirrels. But when Erik and his sister Brunhilde travel to Minnesota to visit another branch of the Sheepflattener clan, Brunhilde helps Erik confront and conquer his fears as if they are an enemy in battle. Although there's no strong language or name calling, there's a small amount of yelling (expressed in all-caps) and plenty of talk about conquest and domination (as the family lives up to the stereotype of their Viking ancestors). Family members discuss their fondness for axes, knives, and battle instruments in general. The adult members of Erik's family all wear tattoos on their arms that show the runes for certain mottos like "FAMILY" or "PRIDE."
Is It Any Good?
This funny book shows an anxious boy confronting his fears with the help of his fearless sister and the rest of his Viking-descended family. Although Erik begins the novel mired in an inability to deal with his fears in any constructive way, Brunhilde takes her brother's fear as another challenge to conquer and defeat through a systematic process of research and staged confrontations. The novel features many wacky situations, such as when Brunhilde locks Erik in a librarian's office with a sardine can clip and the librarian begins yodeling at the top of her lungs in order to get the attention of the library's repair worker in a nearby room. Such quirky creativity, combined with the novel's honest and nonjudgmental treatment of anxiety as something to conscientiously focus on and work at treating, make it a delightful and worthwhile read.
However, at times author Christina Uss' characterization of the Sheepflatteners can become heavy-handed and one-dimensional, with several of Erik's family members speaking in a blunt, contraction-free syntax that leaves them stranded more in the losing battleground of stereotype than at the winner's podium of humor.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.