Argh, Worry Monsters! What will Tissywoo do? How will she cope?
Tissywoo and the Worry Monsters, Trish Donald (author, illus.), Little Pink Dog Books, February 2018
Anxiety in children is an issue that is all too common, but however its form, it is always good practice to find ways to counteract feelings of stress and worry. Tissywoo and the Worry Monsters demonstrates a clear and apt example of mindful practise that children, and adults, can so easily inherit – and it works! This book focuses on deep and controlled breathing exercises, shown to minimise young Tissywoo’s worries about starting school.
At the same time, Tissywoo is excited, and the opening pictures show us a happy and prepared school-starter ready for her new adventure. But soon she begins to question the unforeseeable future, and quickly the mood changes. Trish Donald cleverly turns up the pace with evocative language and rising darkness, and you can almost hear the thumping of a heartbeat as the worry monsters sneak creepily in to the scene. The pages gradually become more and more ominous with snake-like, black beasts overshadowing the poor little girl as her worries grow bigger. Up to the point they are so enormous we have to open out the pages and observe Tissywoo absolutely engulfed by monsters across two double spreads. (Don’t worry, they’re not overly frightening for children! They’re actually a bit beautiful) Remembering her mother’s advice, Tissywoo inhales and exhales so calmly that the worry monsters fade away and she even models this technique for her new school friends.
Trish Donald supports her intense story through her colour palette and illustration style, effectively juxtaposing the emotional changes from calm to anxiety with the use of solid, bright collaged cut outs and black etched line drawings respectively. I also like that the book doesn’t try to ‘solve the problem’. It is making readers aware that ‘worries’ may always niggle at you (or niggle in one’s hat), but there are strategies to help you deal with nerve-wracking circumstances, no matter how big or small. (And we all have them from time to time!)
The ‘breathing mindfully’ exercise at the end of the book is a gentle and reassuring resource to practise. At the same time, the story is an encouraging and gripping read for children from age five to revisit whenever the shadow of doubt begins to creep in.
Review by Romi Sharp.