Are You Feeling Cold, Yuki?
K.I. Al-Ghani and Haitham Al-Ghani
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This picture book is about a family of snow monkeys that live in Japan, and one young monkey, Yuki, in particular. He gets so absorbed in what he’s doing that he frequently fails to realise when his body is signalling to him that, for instance, he is cold or hungry, needs to wee or to poo. This is of great concern to his parents and sister. Things come to a head when the family go off to bathe in the hot springs in the valley, for instead of joining the others in the warm water, Yuki continues playing in the snow. His mother calls upon his grandfather to help and the following morning Yuki pays him a visit.
Step by step, over the next days, weeks and months,
Grandfather helps Yuki to understand how his brain picks up sensations and sends ‘funny feelings’ to the relevant part of his body. For instance when he’s too cold, the skin on his feet and fingers get a tingly sensation and he starts to shiver so his brain tells his body to do something to warm up. Thus, he learns to recognise as well, the meaning of “a rumbly tummy” and the sensations he feels when he needs to get rid of excess liquid or the remains of food after all the goodness has been extracted.
The problems Yuki was having were on account of his being unaware of his bodily sensations and what his Grandfather taught him was something called ‘interoception’, which scientists call the eighth sense: the perception of sensations from inside the body including the perception of physical sensations related to internal organ function such as respiration, heartbeat and fullness.
By providing a place from which to become aware, story is a great way to help neurodiverse youngsters to learn. This one written by specialist advisory teacher Kay Al-Ghani with its mixed media illustrations by her son Haitham, subtly teaches about interoception and is accessible, empathetic and gently humorous. It would make a useful resource for parents, teachers and support staff.