I Am Courage

I Am Courage
Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams

The sixth in the I Am series looks at the topic of inner strength and resilience, things we’ve all needed to draw on in the past eighteen months or so.

This book is presented by a child narrator on a bike ride. The ride (like life) is full of challenges, but despite being faced by such obstacles as a dark path, a bridge across a deep gorge, even meeting with a frightening dog,

the child believes in their own strength and resilience, drawing on it to keep going. This sometimes entails asking for support from other people and sometimes it means giving support to others. Resilience is shown first on the child’s T-shirt, then as a bonfire and then on flags that the narrator gives to others, each time taking the form of an iconic flame symbol that helps them to find their own inner strength. 

That friends are key in the whole process of keeping the flame alive no matter what, is shown in the final two spreads where we see the narrator and friends creating a large sail and sailing off on a raft with the symbol hoisted aloft.

Peter H. Reynolds uses different colour backgrounds, each one vibrant, in keeping with the range of feelings the characters show on their faces during the course of the journey.

After Susan Verde’s first person narrative, she offers an author’s note wherein she suggests some yoga poses and breathing techniques that should help youngsters in affirming the brave, confident and courageous humans that they are.

The Visible Sounds

The Visible Sounds
Yin Jianling and Yu Rong (translated by Filip Selucky)
UCLAN Publishing

This is the powerfully affecting picture book, based on the true story of Chinese dancer Lihua Tai. It tells of MiLi, who as a little girl of two, suffers an illness and loses her hearing as a result. Initially frustrated, anxious, and alone in her world of silence, MiLi uses tears to express how she feels. Doctors are unable to cure her but then one day MiLi realises that although she’s unable to hear sounds, she is able to perceive them in other ways: sound can be felt within, touched, and seen through understanding and interpreting vibrations and movements in the world.

The author expresses the child’s realisation through a plethora of sensory musical phrases: ‘Sounds are waves when fish pass through water, like the lightest of kisses.’ … ‘Sound is the bright sunshine flowing into one’s blood, beaming with rays.’ … ‘Language is a river, flowing and flooding into MiLi’s body.’ … ‘The beautiful music jiggles in her blood. It doesn’t have a sound, but it shines with colours and emotions …’

Perfectly complementing the beauty of the text are Yu Rong’s illustrations with their synthesis of striking graphic style, detail and blending of colours and greyness.

This is a book, that with themes of aiming high and being our very best selves,

while offering a message of hope to differently abled youngsters, surely speaks to us all. It concludes with a note on sign language and a page about Tai Lihua.

A must have for schools, and for family collections.

What’s Going On Inside My Head? / Step Into Your Power

What’s Going On Inside My Head?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings
Bloomsbury Featherstone

Developing and supporting emotional literacy is, or should be, a crucial part of young children’s education in school and most teachers consider it so.

However, parents/carers can at times feel inadequate when it comes to talking to and supporting their children’s mental health, and at an increasingly younger age children come under enormous pressure be that through the education system (I could rant at length about that) or out of school in clubs and activities in which they participate, as well as through social media and advertising. What parents need to do is to love and support children not for what they can achieve but for who and what they are.

To this end Molly Potter, a teacher who specialises in PSHE has written a very helpful book to share with young children.

By means of twelve questions she explores a range of topics: how to think about oneself; the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind (how the former feeds into the latter);

the notion of happiness; dealing with emotions; coping with feelings of anger, sadness and fear; coping with negative thoughts that seem overwhelming (suggestions to prevent ‘ruminating’ and instead focusing on being in the moment); dealing with upsets triggered by another person (forgiving is important here).

There’s also a spread on meditation and its potential benefits;

another on who to ask for help when it’s needed; the role of family and friends as a supportive network; being a better friend and finally, improving one’s own thinking habits – being proactive when something is upsetting you.

Many of the topics includes a ‘top tip’ or ‘It’s good (or important) to know that …’ paragraph and I particularly like the coping plan

and the invitation to hold up a mirror to oneself and think about which behaviours ‘you like’, ‘don’t mind’ and ‘really do not like’.
The book concludes with three pages of guidance for parents and carers.

Throughout Sarah Jennings’ inclusive illustrations both support and extend Molly’s straightforward, sensible, practical words.

For an older age group is:

Step Into Your Power
Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Wide Eyed Editions

Here’s a book I wish I’d had when I was growing up. Both author Jamia Wilson (executive director of the Feminist Press) and illustrator/designer Andrea Pippins act as mentors in this, their guide to helping girls to grow into confident young women, cognisant of their strengths (and the areas they need to work at), and sufficiently empowered to step out and follow their dreams.

Subtitled ‘23 lessons on how to live your best life’, the book offers exactly that and made me want to go immediately and seek out some young females to share it with.

After an inspiring introduction, said lessons are organised into five sections entitled: Power, Community, Choices, Act! and Self-Care and all sections comprise several key elements each of which is allocated a double spread (or two) illustrated in vibrant colour by Andrea.

Thinking outside the box, abandoning old habits that are no longer appropriate in today’s richly diverse society, and not always following the rules, are explored and the author mentions as examples some visionary rule-challenging individuals.

Each topic has an encouraging and uplifting ‘Step into your power’ section.

Thoroughly recommended for upper primary readers and beyond.