What are you afraid of? Darkness? That’s pretty common. Not knowing what’s around you in the dark at night. Snakes? Spiders? Yes, they can be very scary, especially if you don’t know much about them. Ghosts? Vampires? Monsters under the bed?
There are other things you might be afraid of, of course. Everyone is afraid of something. You yourself—yes, you, the person reading this book right now—have probably felt fear once or twice in your life. Remember that feeling? Your heart pumping, sweat running down your face…did you shiver? Did you shake? Did you feel like screaming or crying or running away?
Well, guess what? It’s okay if you did.
Like I said, everyone is afraid of something. But for some reason we tend to think less of people for being afraid of a different thing than we’re afraid of. A person who fears snakes might call you a coward for fearing spiders. And that’s really not fair. I have no idea what you’re afraid of, but I’m here to tell you that whatever it is, it’s okay. Fear is normal. Fear is healthy. Fear stops us from walking into traffic or climbing into the tiger habitat at the zoo or running into a burning building.
What if there was a puppy in the middle of the road about to get run over?
What if someone else had fallen into the tiger habitat and couldn’t get out?
What if a little kid was trapped in that burning building?
When you see a firefighter running into a burning building to make sure there’s nobody inside, do you think they don’t feel afraid? Of course they do! They’re running headlong into a burning building! What makes them brave is the fact that they’re doing what they have to do even though they’re afraid.
Fear is normal. Overcoming fear is brave. Overcoming it to help someone else is called heroism.
But, take my word for it. Only an idiot is never afraid of anything.
Which brings me to our hero: Shivers.
Shivers was not his real name, of course. His real name was…you know, I forget. Nobody ever called him by his real name. Everyone just called him “Shivers.” Isn’t that right, Shivers?
“Yup! It surely is!”
And why do they call you that?
“Um…I don’t know.”
Well, I’ll tell you.
Have you ever seen a big guy who people call “Tiny?” Or maybe a really fat guy who everyone calls “Slim?” Remember “Little” John from Robin Hood? These are what we call “ironic” nicknames, because they’re the opposite of what’s true.
“So, they call me Shivers because…I don’t shiver?”
That’s right. You don’t shiver. You don’t tremble, shake, shudder, get goose pimples or in any way display the emotion of fear.
Because you’re an idiot.
“That’s not very nice!”
What’s two plus two?
“Um…its, um…okay, point taken.”
Let’s take an example from Shivers’ real life to illustrate what I’m talking about here:
When he was very young, a lion came out of the woods to attack his father’s flock of sheep. His two elder brothers, both of whom had brains, ran away out of fear of the ferocious lion. Shivers, however, walked straight up to the lion and said, “Kitty?”
To make a long (and rather unpleasant) story short, the lion lunged at Shivers and sunk his teeth into the boy’s left leg. He survived the attack, but he never quite walked right after that.
His father shouted at him; scolded him for not being more sensible. But his mother was kind and gentle and far more understanding than her husband. All she cared about was that her youngest son was a nice, sweet boy. She didn’t care that he was so dumb he didn’t even know to run away from a savage lion.
But, aside from his mother, practically everyone in their village thought Shivers was a freak for not being afraid, which is why they teased him with the name “Shivers,” since he was the only person they knew who never shivered about anything.
“Gee, I wish I could shiver!”
Well, just wait. That’s what this story is about. It’s the story of the boy who left home to learn how to shiver.
“Really? What’s the boy’s name?”
It’s…it’s you, Shivers. It’s about you.
Oh well. On with the story.
Shivers lived in the kingdom of Borriston, many, many years ago. His father was a shepherd, and he was teaching his two elder sons, Peter and Nicholas, to follow in his footsteps.
“Is he teaching me to follow in his footsteps, too?”
No, Shivers. After the bit with the lion, he decided it was better to keep you away from the flock. So your mother started teaching you sewing. That was her job, you see. She was a seamstress.
“This is a useful skill,” she would tell him as they worked together. “You’ll be surprised how often it comes in handy.”
“I guess, but…”
“Well, it’s not very manly, is it? I mean, all the other men in the village are shepherds or blacksmiths or butchers or…what do they call those guys who make horseshoes and stuff?”
“Those are blacksmiths, dear.”
“They are? I thought blacksmiths made cakes!”
“No, those would be bakers, my love.”
“This is getting confusing. Maybe I’d better write this down.”
“You don’t know how to write, sweetheart.”
“Oh, that’s right. Gee, Poppa’s right. I am a useless idiot.”
“No you’re not! Listen to me, darling, and listen well: You are not useless! You’re different. That may mean your life will be a little harder than most, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m very sure. Now, please put down those white linens.”
“Because you pricked yourself with the needle about fifteen seconds ago and you’re bleeding all over them.”
So Peter and Nicholas grew up to be very good shepherds and, by the time they were grown, they were basically in charge of the sheep.
As for Shivers, he and his mother took in sewing, washing, ironing and the like from the other people in the village. Which is how he met Ellen.
Shivers was outside the front door of his house, trying to get Baabaa free…oh, did I forget to tell you about Baabaa? Sorry about that.
Baabaa was Shivers’ pet and, as you can probably guess, she was a sheep. She was, literally, the black sheep of her family which is why Peter and Nicholas didn’t mind Shivers taking her and keeping her as a pet. Unfortunately, Baabaa turned out to be about as stupid as Shivers which is why she had her head caught in the hole in the fence for the third time this week.
“Can I help you?” asked Shivers, still tugging on Baabaa’s back legs and not looking up at whoever had spoken.
“Yes, is this where Martha the Seamstress lives?”
“It sure is. Did you have some work for us?”
“Us? You’re a seamstress?”
“Yes. Well, no, not really. Cuz I’m a boy, so I’m not a seamstress. I’m a seam…a seam…a seamster? Does that sound like a word?”
“Well, anyway. Yes, I help my mother with the sewing and mending and such.”
“Then why are you pulling on that sheep?”
Shivers explained briefly about Baabaa’s unfortunate tendency to get her head caught in the hole in the fence and Ellen volunteered to help. Both of them pulling as hard as they could, they managed to get her free.
“Thank you. By the way, I’m Shivers. Who are…” This is the point when Shivers finally looked up at the person with whom he had been speaking all this time. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. “Wow! You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!”
“Oh! Thank you. My name is Ellen,” she said, cradling Baabaa gentle in her arms. My family just arrived in Borriston.”
“Oh, that explains why I haven’t seen you before. And why you’re talking to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, you’re new in town, so I guess it’s only fair to warn you. People don’t like me very much.”
“Cuz I’m stupid.”
“I’m sure you’re not stupid.”
“Do you know why Baabaa keeps putting her head in that hole in the fence?”
“Because she saw me do it.”
“Oh. Well, anyone can make a mistake—”
“Oh…I see…well…well, there’s more to life than being smart, you know.”
“Well, there’s being kind. Like looking after a little black sheep who…has just gotten her head stuck in the fence again. You should really just patch that hole.”
This had never occurred to Shivers before now. “Patch the hole! That would solve everything!”
“Wow, you really are stupid aren’t you?”
“But you’re very nice.”
And that’s how Shivers made his first ever friend who wasn’t also a sheep.
Would you like to know more about Shivers and his adventure to learn about fear? Of course you would! Why wouldn't you? Which is why you should go right ahead and order your copy of Shivers today. Loosely based on an obscure Brothers Grimm tale, this is the perfect story for Halloween. It's also a great way to show your kids that it's okay to be scared, as long as you are in control of your fear and not the other way around.