Feelings

Red Reading Hub is Happy that Caterpillar Books invited me to be part of the FEELINGS blog tour and thanks too, to the book’s creators, Richard and Libby for …

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Feelings
Richard Jones and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books
Emotional literacy and well-being are at the heart of the Early Years Foundation Stage and Every Child Matters, and yet still, as we’re told in the PR for this book, ‘One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 (have) a mental health problem.’
So what happens once children move into primary school at age five? Here is not the place to discuss this issue although I have strong views on what I see to be some of the contributory factors: rather, I welcome anything that can help children to explore their own feelings and emotions openly and within a safe context. Many picture book stories offer this possibility; now here we have a lovely, specially written and illustrated book to this end.
Richard Jones, the illustrator, places the child right where he or she should be: at the heart of this book …

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and then, after the introduction, assigns a double spread to the exploration of ten different feelings/emotions: Brave, Sad, Angry, Happy, Jealous, Alone, Embarrassed, Excited, Afraid and Calm. Each one is beautifully atmospheric.
Vitally important as personal feelings are, it is also essential, in order to function well in society, to be able to see things from other people’s viewpoints. So after acknowledging that we’re all different and that this is mirrored in our own personal feelings, Libby Walden (or rather her child narrator) makes this final suggestion: ‘Try to walk in someone’s shoes to see how they might feel, /For though you cannot see them, their feelings are still strong and real.’ How many times a day or week do those of us who teach in the foundation stage or spend time in Early Years settings say to individuals after an incident, something like “Now how do you think so and so feels about that?”
The rhyming text makes use of metaphor to look at what happens when one is overwhelmed by a particular emotion: Sad is a ‘river … bursting through its banks’ covering the land and creating a ‘sea of salty tears with no sign of the shore.”

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Angry is ‘a fire-pit in the ground ‘blazing, spitting, bubbling and swirling and finally, erupting …

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Jealousy, in contrast, is a rolling ‘emerald mist’, churning, seething and eating away at you from inside, blurring your vision and fixing your mind on something you don’t have.
For many children, particularly younger ones, pictorial representation is the easiest (and for them, safest) way to explore their feelings. With this in mind, I shared the book and asked some children to talk, reflect and respond in their own way: here are a few of their pictures.
Angry seemed to be the one feeling that was all-engulfing: Gracie has become an enormous bear with jagged teeth and claws …

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Interestingly Richard himself mentions jagged shapes and fiery colours in his discussion of illustrating Angry for the book. Saba too has jagged lightning in her Angry scene …

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Happy for Daniel is doing sport …

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for Shahan lots of sweets to eat, especially his favourite gulab jamun …

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For Lexi, it’s celebrating a birthday …

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Sad, for Shifan is broken toys …

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for Frankie it’s bullying …

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Excited for James is activities that allow him to release his boundless energy …

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If these responses are anything to go by, Feelings should certainly prove to be a very valuable resource for teachers and other working with children.

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