Tom Percival is an expert when it comes to producing books that deal with childhood emotions - Ruby’s Worry and Ravi’s Roar being two of my personal favourites. Erika and the Anger Mare was previously published as Attack of the Heebie Jeebies in March 2020 and is part of the Dream Defenders collection, a series of books that explore childhood emotions for confident readers aged six and up.
Erika is not happy. Her younger brother Randall is getting away with everything - destroying her toys, ruining her work and making a lot of noise. To make matters worse, Randall is getting lots of love and attention and Erika can’t get either of her parents to play with her or listen to her. After a particularly bad day and ready to explode with anger she heads to bed. But anger at bed time can lead to angry dreams and that can put you in the path of an Angermare.
Erika’s hopes of an anger-free sleep are quickly dashed when she finds herself in a very strange world and meets a creature who can only say, ‘Heebie Jeebie.’ She has entered the Dreamscape, the home of the Dream Team. The Dream Team are like dream police, making sure children can sleep peacefully at night and it is their job to keep sleepers safe from Angermares and Anxietymares.
But the Heebie Jeebies are out to eat dreams and they have taken a particular liking to Erika’s. With her dream being eaten and an Angermare chasing her, Erika needs all the help of the Dream Team if she is to make it out of the Dreamscape alive…
Recently, and rightly so, much more focus has being placed on the well-being and mental-health of young minds and books by Tom Percival are brilliant in helping readers understand and deal with their emotions. With Percival’s assured author voice to guide readers and the help of his heroic Dream Team, children’s mental-health is in very capable hands.
First and foremost, Erika and the Anger Mare is a cracking, and often funny, story that at the same time explores feelings of anger without ever feeling overbearing. Full of wacky characters, a wonderfully imaginative world where nothing makes sense (anything can happen in the Dreamscape) and some furry little creatures that are far from friendly this is the most enjoyable of reads that will have children racing through the pages desperately wanting to know what will happen next and if Erika can make it out alive.
With Erika trapped in the Dreamscape and desperately trying to avoid getting caught by an Angermare and the naughty Heebie Jeebies trying to eat all of the dream crystal, the Dream Team face a race against time if they are to complete their biggest challenge yet in this thrilling and action-packed adventure.
In Erika, Percival presents a very real and relatable character who is quite literally bursting with anger. With the help of the Dream Team, Erika understands that her feelings of anger and anxiety are normal and that it is important to not let these emotions become overpowering and controlling. She learns to manage her feelings and the Angermare that is chasing her throughout the story begins to shrink. I liked that Erika was ultimately able to reflect on why she got so upset, rationalise her feelings and apologise to those that she hurt.
Anger is an emotion that we can all relate to and Percival’s picture book ‘Ravi’s Roar’ was a great introduction to those temper tantrums but anger doesn’t stop as we age and I love that Percival has continued his exploration of emotions. In Erika and the Anger Mare, he delves deeper into the emotion of anger in an exciting, imaginative and funny read that deals with real issues without being over the top about it. It is a great read for opening up conversations on different feelings, why we feel the way we do and what we can do to manage those feelings.
This latest group of heroes, who look out for us when we slip into the land of dreams, are a dream team and I hope that this is just the start of many important and exciting adventures into the wonderful world of the Dreamscape.
With huge thanks to Pan Macmillan for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 6+.