Pilar’s Worries

Illustrated by Jess Golden
32 pages  •  Published 2018 (Albert Whitman & Company)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Publisher's Summary: Pilar loves to dance. She pliés while brushing her teeth. She leaps when hurrying to ballet class. But when tryouts for her favorite ballet are held, Pilar is anxious. Auditioning makes her whole body feel scared. But by using some of the coping techniques she’s learned and focusing on her love for ballet, she is able to persevere. This gentle story is a great tool for children dealing with anxiety.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book is best for children with performance anxiety. Pilar is a ballet dancer, but children with anxiety about other types of performances (e.g., musical performances, theater, class presentations, sports) would also likely benefit from reading this story. It normalizes performance anxiety, which is an important intervention (i.e., there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling anxious about a performance), and it teaches strategies of breathing, visualization, and talking with a loved one.
Would a child like it? A child who enjoys dancing would connect best with this book, but many children with social/performance anxiety would relate to Pilar and enjoy seeing her succeed.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic breathing, Visualization
Tone: Warm, reassuring
Story Quality: It’s a sweet story with a lovely mother-daughter relationship. There’s nothing quirky or snazzy or unexpected in this story, but it is kind and reassuring. In the end, Pilar is still anxious, but she doesn’t let it get in the way of doing what she loves. I appreciate that Pilar isn’t unrealistically “cured” of her anxiety.
Illustrations: Soft watercolor illustrations.
Representation: Pilar is a Latina girl with light brown skin. She has a mother who refers to her as Mijita. Pilar is a ballet dancer, and she has a good friend in her ballet class who is a White boy. Her classmates at school are pictured with diverse skin colors.
Psychological Practices: This book portrays a girl who struggles to speak in class and who is quick to blush if she makes a mistake or others pay attention to her. Many children with social anxiety will relate to Pilar. She loves to dance but is considering skipping the audition of the upcoming Winter Wonderland ballet because of her performance anxiety (she is afraid she’ll make a mistake and her “whole body is scared”). Her friend Sebastian and her mother lovingly remind her to breathe when she is feeling anxious, and she uses visualization to picture herself dancing well prior to her audition. Her friend and her mother are both very supportive of Pilar and help her to share about her fears and to laugh when she’s nervous. In the end, Pilar feels proud of her audition and gets a part in the ballet.
Concerns: None