Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree (Magination Press) is the latest gem from award-winning author, Gail Silver. At first glance, this book seems like any other children’s book, but it holds a greater purpose. This book taps into the often-taboo topic of mental health, tackling anxiety in young children.
The story starts out with young Bea outside of her home, playing in the yard. She is pictured smiling and swinging from a swing hung from the large willow tree outside her house. Bea is an active and energetic girl who enjoys climbing, dancing, singing, and playing pretend. Her carefree and adventurous spirit seems to disappear though with just a flip of the page.
Instead of happily swinging, Bea is curled up in bed looking stressed. When Bea’s mother announces that it is time for Bea’s birthday party, the situation only worsens. A birthday party, which should be an exciting event for the young girl, is actually causing her a great deal of despair. Bea’s mother recognizes the behavior that Bea is displaying when she asks her “What’s wrong?” Bea confirms her mother’s suspicions and introduces the main conflict when she answers, “It’s my anxiety.”
Silver unpacks Bea’s anxiety by using the metaphor of a willow tree. As Bea becomes more worried, we can see tree branches poking through her window and intruding the personal space of her room. As Bea’s worry deepens, willow tree’s branches fill the room with a different worry associated with each one. The willow tree is a unique metaphor for Bea’s anxiety, as we previously saw the tree as a place she was happy. The same elements in life that can bring Bea joy can also apply immense pressure.
We continue to follow Bea through the stages of her anxiety attack. Bea faces many of the common symptoms of anxiety disorder including having a hard time breathing, upset stomach and hot/cold flashes. We see her filling her head with worrying “what if” thoughts that are causing her to want to cancel her birthday party altogether.
Bea is still not ready to face her friends, so she isolates herself in the backyard and tries to face her anxiety instead. It is hard for her at first, but she is eventually able to gather her thoughts and separate herself from the current situation. In this mindset, she can focus solely on her breathing, a common technique for coping with anxiety attacks. She uses a balloon to help her breath in and out. Bea is able to calm down just as her friends come out into the backyard. The party goes off without a hitch and Bea is able to enjoy every minute of it.
This book is able to take a tough topic like anxiety and discuss the issue in an accessible fashion. It gives young readers a sense of comfort in knowing that times may get hard, but they can get overcome them with proper coping techniques. For parents with children who have anxiety, this book is a great tool. It normalizes the topic of mental health and lets children know that they are not alone in how they are feeling. The book also includes a section for parents offering information on mental health in children.
Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree will be available to purchase April 16.
ABOUT GAIL SILVER:
Gail Silver is the author of the award-winning Anh’s anger, Steps and Stones, and Peace, Bugs, and Understanding, as well as director of Yoga Child Inc., and founder and CEO of The School Mindfulnes Project Inc. She lives in Philadephia, Pennsylvania. Visit @GailPSilver on Twitter and gailsilver.com.
ABOUT FRANZISKA HÖLLBACHER:
Franziska Höllbacher has been illustrating children’s books for three years. She currently studies multimedia art in Salzburg, Austria. Vsit @franzi_illus on Twitter, and franzi-illustrates.com.
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