A quick trip to your local library or bookshop will confirm that there is a huge amount of choice available when it comes to children’s books. From the gruesome Horrible Histories through to classics like The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Hairy Maclary, there are plenty of imaginative and fun books to choose from. There are also some lovely stories that combine strong story-telling with an exploration of emotions that can be a real help to children as they begin to experience and process different feelings. We’ve recently read two such books: The Knot, by Helen Cousin with illustrations by Sam Brown and The Little Iceberg by Nicky Murray with illustrations by Sylvia Lynch, and we’d recommend both to anyone who would like to help their young people to gently explore themes such as anxiety, anger, loneliness, connection, compassion, kindness, friendship, trust and loss.
The Knot is written in rhyming prose which makes it a delight to read aloud. Written for pupils in Key Stage 1 and 2, it features a range of characters who are all worried about something – from an unexpected test at school through to their parents’ divorce – creating a knot inside them which they don’t know how to deal with. Friends, family members and teachers suggest things that might help them; from focusing on their breathing to dancing and colouring. It’s great to see that the adults in the story model positive behaviour, talking about the ‘knot’ that they, too, feel and speaking from experience about what they do to feel better. The Knot is very practical in its focus, showing children that it is OK to feel different emotions and that there are things they can do to help themselves to feel better. It’s also interactive, with space at the end of the story for children to write about their own knot. All proceeds are being donated to the charity, Help Me, I’m Fine, which was set up by Helen Cousin in June 2017 shortly after her 16-year-old daughter, Maisie, tragically took her own life. Help Me, I’m Fine is a cause that is close to Thrive’s heart and we have supported it for several years.
The Little Iceberg is accompanied by a companion guide written by Dr Suzanne Zeedyk and Nicky Murray which details how the narrative can help children to process trauma and loss. This is a useful resource which underlines and explains key themes in the story. The central character in the book, also aimed at primary school children, is a young iceberg who finds herself floating in the middle of the ocean growing increasingly lonely but unable to reach out and tell others how she is feeling. One day, a bird lands on the iceberg and slowly befriends her; bringing her things to look at, pecking away at her ice and teaching her about connection, kindness and compassion. Beautifully illustrated, the story isn’t afraid to tackle sadness and loss with candour and authenticity. It recognises the complexities and ‘messiness’ of life in a way that will resonate with children – and grown ups – and delivers an ending that manages to be both haunting and uplifting.
We loved both titles and are giving copies away as a prize in our World Book Day Competition, which was held earlier this year. Copies will be on their way shortly to Alexz, from Hillcroft Primary School, Liam from Hagley Primary School and Oliver from Fressingfield CofE Primary School who won the competition with their amazing drawings of their favourite fictional characters.