Tuesday 25 August 2015

Meh: A Story About Depression

Illustrations and text by Deborah Malcolm
ThunderStone Books 2015

Reviewed copy: my own

Back of book
Have you ever been sad?
Sadness is an emotion that everyone feels at some time or another. But sometimes you might feel a sadness so long and so deep and dark that it seems impossible to find happiness. That kind of sadness is called depression. Meh is a wordless tale that shows one boy's journey through depression.
Did you know?
More than 350 million people of all ages in the world suffer from depression. But there is hope and help available. When you are in a dark place, reach out to someone you can trust.

More from Missus B
Recently it was agreed that, our resource shelf at work was in need of some fresh new books to support children & families with particular life issues. Of course,I was more than happy to take on this task. Working in a family support setting, books are a valuable tool and it's always great to find new material that can help a child, family or group of children. 

Regarding stories that address mental health issues, there's a limited pool of resources out there. Often, the stories are about a parent with depression. These are of course, supportive books but within them, 'depression' is packaged as an adult issue. And maybe that's how we prefer it- after all, childhood depression wasn't even recognised as a disorder until the 1980's. Maybe it's easier to think of this illness as something which affects adults or teenagers only? Yet, at any given time, 5% of children and adolescents are suffering from depression, and children as young as 5 can be diagnosed with it (see links at the end of this post for more info.)

So, when I came upon Meh: A Story About DepressionI was immediately drawn to it, because the main character is a child. Instantly I wanted to know more about the lonely, vulnerable boy on the cover. It's hard to decipher his age-he could be anything from five to ten years. In the opening pages we see him happily enjoying life. He gazes at a cat-shaped cloud in the sky, admires the birds, colours bright pictures, splashes in puddles and reads contentedly. 
 With floating clouds, swishing grass and (on the next page) a water-colour rainbow, there is a positive, warm energy surrounding the boy

But then, we see a dark, curling shape behind him. Nervously, he glances back as it begins to grow . The shadow is connected to him, but something he is frightened of. Suddenly, it swallows him and the boy tumbles downwards. With only gnarly, old trees surrounding him, the page and the boy himself are drained of colour. 
 The absence of words is powerful. It allows the reader to internally process what's happening and connect with the story in their own terms.

Alone in the dullness, he discovers some small, white footprints which lead to a little white cat. New companions, they run and climb through the darkness. The cat comforts and encourages the boy, nuzzling his face and giving him the strength to carry on. The boy becomes more hopeful and the cat grows stronger until together, they have the strength to roar -  literally cracking the walls surrounding them. They escape from the darkness into a warm sunset. 
The white cat could be a symbol for many things-a friend, a helpful adult, or feelings such as hope or courage.
Such symbolic images can help children understand concepts which aren't easily translated into words.The concrete images make it easy for all children to identify with the feelings associated with depression.

I love how this book invites the reader to quietly think, reflect and interpret. The visual narrative alone tells the tale. This is a lovely book for a child to look at alone or for a group of children to discuss together. It gently introduces the topic of childhood depression and at the end, there are questions to discuss. Children are encouraged to explore the meaning of the story, the feelings of the character, their own feelings and what they think depression may be. It's an excellent tool for supporting emotional literacy, self awareness and empathy skills.
Coming out of the darkness and into the light-the boy no longer has a grey, dull appearance and colour has returned to the illustrations

This is a great book- it had me at Meh! So,I ordered a copy for work and bought one for my own personal collection (I would prefer it though, if the book was finished in gloss instead of the matt-like finish of the edition I reviewed. In a picture book, gloss pages are more durable and do the illustrations more justice.)

If you'd like some professional information about Childhood Depression, check out the links at the end of this post.

Happy Reading,
Missus B
Book available at these affiliate links:

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You may also be interested in the collection of books I have compiled on my 'Feelings/Emotions' Page, with titles including  The Huge Bag of Worries , What to do when you worry too much and Worries Go Away!

Further  information/advice about Childhood Depression:

Monday 24 August 2015

What to Do When You Worry Too Much

A kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

Written by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D
Illustrated by Bonnie Matthews
Magination Press 2006 
ISBN 13: 978-1-59147-414-5
ISBN 10: 1-59147-314-4
Reviewed copy: my own

Back of book:
Did you know that worries are like tomatoes? No, you can't eat them, but you can make them grow, simply by paying attention to them. If your worries have grown so big that they bother you almost every day, this book is for you.

Back of book also describes how cognitive-behavioural techniques, metaphors and illustrations are used to help children address anxiety. 

More from Missus B
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What to Do Guides for Kids) is an excellent support tool for children who need help with fears, anxieties or worries.

The book comes with an informative introduction for adults, which explains a little about the cognitive-behavioural principles used and points about how anxiety can impact on a person.

Nine chapters include activities, pictures and information in an easy to understand format.

If you are a child who worries a lot, you know that worries can make your body feel bad. Worries can cause a sick feeling inside. They can make your stomach hurt, and make your head ache too. They can make you sweaty and cause your heart to pound. 
Books about worrying
Children are encouraged to think about how anxiety impacts on them, or where in their body they
may carry their worries.
I love the use of metaphors in the book as they make the concepts easier for a child to grasp. Worries are compared to a tomato plant- once tended to, watered and given time the plant can grow strong and healthy. Anxieties are also described as being like  a 'worry bully' - they need to be stood up to and firmly told to go away.
What will you say to the worry bully on your shoulder?
The book suggests techniques for managing fears like naming/describing the worry, using logical thinking, setting aside a designated time for worrying or visualising worries being tightly locked away in a worry box.
Use logic against worries.....Move your body to re-set your system....Relax with a favourite memory
Importantly, it also suggests techniques a child can use to 're-set your system' or change how anxiety affects us physically.  Readers are encouraged to either  undertake a new activity or engage in relaxation.  

Think of a memory that makes you feel really good inside. Remember as many details as you can. What were you wearing? How did the air smell? What could you hear? How did you feel? What did you see? Draw or write about your special memory.

A great book for supporting  children, opening up discussion and offering practical tips for managing fear. (See resources for other useful info)
Happy reading,
Missus B
Book available at these affiliate links:


Saturday 22 August 2015

Love Monster & the Last Chocolate

Love Monster and the Last Chocolate
Text and illustrations: Rachel Bright
HarperCollins Children's Books 2014
Reviewed copy: library copy

Back of book:
When Love Monster finds a mystery box of chocolates at his door, he can't believe his luck. But he's soon thrown into a whirlwind of turmoil. Should he keep the chocolates for himself.... or risk sharing his good fortune with his friends?This super-funny-rumbly-tummy-sherbet-explosion of a story shows that when faced with the selection box of life,following your heart brings the best treats of all!

Missus B says:
Oh this monster is deliciously cute! I plucked this book from my library shelf and just had to take this hairy little character home. Those pointy ears, saucer eyes, wonky teeth and bulbous toes make him an adorable little creature. 

The illustrations are wonderfully vibrant and rich. Chunky little characters, lovely patterns, comical background detail and playful text-there's plenty to appreciate. 

The story:
Love Monster has just arrived home from his adventurous holiday and.....well...he's feeling rather depressed. He trundles along with his suitcase in the rain (typical) but wait...hang on -is that a box of chocolates  waiting on his doorstep?! 
Someone has a bad case of PTD! (that's post-travel depression)
At the sight of these treats, his holiday blues are tossed aside and Love Monster drools as he thinks of the wonderful sweeties waiting for him.....

In a double-page spread, we see a collection of lovely chocolates with their names written underneath. I love the descriptive text and mouth watering vocabulary:

Tutti-Frutti Splodge
Wonderfully Whippy Walnut One

Love Monster cannot wait to open the box and tuck in....

But THEN he had a thought that he just couldn't unthink.
He should probably share the chocolates with his friends.
...what if there weren't enough?
what if someone took the one HE wanted he most?
Or, WORST of all...
...what if the only one left for him was THE COFFEE ONE??!
Love Monster
Nothing worse than seeing your favourite choccy being devoured by someone else.
Looks like the Double Chocolate Strawberry Swirl is a popular sweety!

Oh dilemma dilemma! Scratching his head, twiddling his toes... Love Monster weighs up the situation and decides that it's 'kinder and better for everyone if he kept the chocolates ...just for himself.'
Love Monster
One of my favourite pages- I love the wide, guilty eyes, the cutesy curtains and lovely mix of colour in this scene.
Behind closed doors, Love Monster puts the kettle on, and settles himself down for the chocolate-eating event. But, just before he opens the box, he glances at a photo of his friends,suddenly feeling a rush of guilt. 
Cup of tea.... Snuggly Arm Chair.... Box of Chocolates..... Perfect!
Oh hang on....
Group photo of Buddies...
Buddies LOVE chocolate....
Oh, for Goodness sake- the GUILT!
Cannot eat chocolates without sharing...
Must relieve conscience and do so!
So, driven by guilt, he decides to share with his friends and then discovers that, there has just been one chocolate in the box all along. His thoughtful buddies have kept him a 'Double-Chocolate-Strawberry-Swirl' because they missed him while he was away. 

 'sometimes, it's when you stop to think of others...that you start to find out just how much they think of you.' 

This is a sweet and funny story with a message about sharing and thinking of others.

Happy Reading,
Missus B

Affiliate links:

Sunday 9 August 2015

Feelings Series: Angry

Written by Sarah Medina
Illustrated by Jo Brooker
Heinemann Raintree Library 2007
Reviewed copy: from my resource shelf at work

Back of Book:
The 'Feelings' series helps readers explore their emotions-what they are, how they recognize them, and appropriate action to take when they have them. The clear text and colourful, humorous illustrations help enhance children's understanding of their feelings and those of other people.

Missus B says...
An excellent tool for developing emotional literacy and helping children to recognise, name and understand feelings.
The inner back of the book gives a helpful 'Note to Parents and Teachers' with some tips about discussing the text and illustrations with children.

There are 24 pages in the book and each of the double-page spread opens with a question. The questions are answered with  five or six simple, short sentences. 

E.g. pages 14 & 15:
Angry Book

Will I Always Feel Angry?
Feelings change all the time. Your angry feelings will not last forever. You will feel better very soon. Sometimes other people may feel angry.  Remember, they will not stay angry for long.

Through ten questions, children can explore the topic of anger and learn things such as: what may happen when we feel angry, how to tell if someone else is angry or things to do when faced with anger.

Angry Book
What is anger?
While the questions can open up discussion, the images also offer lots of talking opportunities. My little listeners like to suggest what the story characters may be thinking, feeling or discussing in each scene. This book has led to some great circle-time discussions and has given me some interesting insight every time I've shared it!

I love, love the illustrations! Each page is filled with colour, texture and some lovely patterned detail. Diverse groups of children  are represented and the characters have a cute, chunky appearance, almost looking like children's drawings.  The scenes are easy for children to relate to with some cute background action- a pair of mice getting up to mischief or the cat and dog sometimes mirroring angry body language. The antics of the animals brings a comedy element to the story e.g. on page ten, a mouse is peeping its head out of a little girls school bag, while another is standing with his arms folded copying the body language of the adult character.

Angry Book
Spot the mischievous little mouse reading under the coffee table!
At the end of the book, there are four photographs of children with different facial expressions and the reader is asked  to describe the feelings in each picture.

This book is an ideal resource in a PSHE/SPHE curriculum.
Happy Reading,
Missus B

You may also be interested in the collection of books I have compiled on my 'Feelings/Emotions' Page

Book available at the below affiliate links: 

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
'Feelings' Puppets- a handy extra when sharing this book

Feelings Classroom Poster

Monday 3 August 2015

My little Moomin

So... we've been reading books with our little man pretty much since we got home from the hospital.

When the public health nurse visited us during his first week, I was secretly miffed when she said our little man could only see 'blurred shapes.' 'What?' I thought, his eye contact is perfect!! From the moment he was born he looked straight at me, and of course he knew he was looking at his mother! 

He loves his story time and has been looking at, eating, banging and crawling with books since forever. 

Here he is at about 8 weeks

Nightly we read this one by Lynne Chapman, which he dearly loves.....

It's got some great sounds, wonderful illustrations and it's
pages are a nice durable material.
He's almost 13 months now, easily turns the pages himself
and sometimes repeats the sounds.

I love watching him handling books-even if he pulls a paper back, non-kiddy book off one of our book shelves, I feel so pleased to see him manipulate the pages so well (before the slobbering/banging sets in!)

Tried my best to get him to read more of this one...
but he was having none of it!
We call him our 'little Moomin' and Santa brought him his very own one
 last xmas. Santa had to search really hard to find a blue eyed Moomin!

Here he is today, reading the lovely 'Guess how much I Love you'


We love him to the moon and back :)

[This post includes affiliate links]

Making Friends: Citizenship

Editorial: Cassie Mayer & Charlotte Guillain
Illustrations: Mark Beech
Curious Fox/ Capstone Global Library 2008

Back of book:
Books in this series introduce children to the character values that embody citizenship. In 'Making Friends', children view various situations that demonstrate responsible behaviour. Playful, engaging illustrations are used to reinforce understanding of the concepts.

Other titles include
Following Rules
Being Fair

Being Responsible

More from Missus B
In Making Friends, readers hear what it is to be a friend, ways to make friends and ways to be a good friend.
Simple sentences and straight forward text, give the reader ten examples of friendship.
A diverse group of characters demonstrate friendship skills in various settings.

'Making Friends' is a simple,short picture book and a useful tool in prompting discussion about social skills.

In the final pages, the readers are asked 'How can you be a good friend?' and then to consider how a story character is acting in a friendly manner.

This is a handy book to use within the PSHE/SPHE curriculum.

Happy Reading,
Missus B
Book available at the below affiliate links.

You may be interested in other books I have listed on this page : 'Social Skills'
buy the book from The Book Depository, free deliveryClick HERE to buy at The Book Depository