Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants

Children’s Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants is a children’s picture book written by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwyneth Jones and published by EK Books, an imprint of Exile Publishing, 2015. l

From the publisher:

Sometimes Sophie worries — not during the day when she is busy with family and friends, but at night when everything is calm and quiet. Her family all try to help, but somehow they just make her worries worse. Until her mother thinks of a new approach … that might just involve an elephant or two! But wait, don’t think about purple elephants, whatever you do! Whimsical and humorous, this little girl’s story of finding a way to ease her worry resonates with children and parents everywhere.

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants is an excellent resource for social and emotional learning for parents and teachers.

Most of the time Sophie is a happy, well-adjusted child who enjoys school and friends. But at night she finds herself worrying about all sorts of seemingly simple things. Nothing her family does seems to help until Mum has an idea. She tells Sophie NOT to think about purple elephants. What’s the first thing you do when someone tells you not to think about something? Start thinking about it, right? So it’s not surprising when young Sophie finds her bedtime thoughts dancing with enchanting purple elephants rather than bogged down with anxieties. Whelan gives us a character kids will relate to in young Sophie, and deftly allows children to sort out their own conclusions on coping with anxiety. I know that even young worriers will enjoy the humour in the story as well as empathising with Sophie.

Jones provides lots to think about in her illustrations. I like the way she used a different palette on the worry pages, and showed us the way anxiety seemed to twist Sophie into knots. Children will enjoy locating and determining the cat’s role in the story, and love checking out the antics of all the friendly purple elephants, especially the way they interact with Sophie’s former worries.

Have you noticed that it’s often the very intelligent and sensitive kids who are tortured by fears and anxieties? Somehow that very quality of imagination and creativity that we prize in kids can have a negative aspect as it amplifies worrying situations for them. Where one child can read about tsunamis and be mildly interested, an anxious child immediately starts checking for higher ground and straining for the crash of waves. There are things we can do as parents and teachers to help such children - and one of those is to suggest coping mechanisms. Luckily this is where a children’s picture book can help. One of the many wonderful aspects to children’s literature is that they expose kids to new points of view in an accessible and entertaining way. By reading of Sophie’s problems and her solution, children may experiment to see if it will help them too. My hope for every anxious child is that they too will have a phalanx of purple elephants to NOT think about.

Check out the teaching notes on the Purple Elephants website.

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