Eventually, kids have to learn the truth about everything, from where babies come from to how a seemingly progressive nation could elect a fascist plutocrat. The most that we can do for children is try our best to explain these things in terms that they can understand, but sometimes the hardest topics to discuss are those that should be simple.
A Feel Better Book for Little Tears (Magination Press) by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen is the latest in a series of children’s books that attempt to assist kids in comprehending their complex emotions. This book tackles sadness with a charming and soothing rhyme pattern.
The narrator, implied to be the mother of the subject of the book, begins by suggesting “Maybe you’re feeling like nothing’s alright. Like the sky isn’t blue and the sun isn’t bright.” This is a simplified but accurate depiction of what it feels like to be a little bit depressed.
The narrator goes on to say “Sadness is a feeling that hurts way deep down. It’s the opposite of happy and turns your smiles into frowns,” offering the child an explanation as to what they’re feeling.
At no point is the narrator patronizing, and the book deliberately keeps cause and symptoms of the child’s sadness vague and relatable; this is not a book that dives into the existential dread of clinical depression, instead showing kids who are homesick or don’t want to play. However, such an approach allows the authors to explore all facets of what it means to be sad in a way that kids will easily grasp.
The optimistic outlook, that gloomy moods can be solved by trying to remember things that make one happy or simply by crying it out, might seem more applicable to minor hurts and disappointments than larger ones, but it’s important to remember: this is a book intended to start a conversation with children, and the follow-up chat can illuminate future coping strategies.
It is up to the reader to ask follow-up questions more carefully targeted at their child, and the authors have thankfully made the book accessible and relatable enough that it can serve as a jumping off point for discussing any type of sadness.
The book closes with the hopeful reminder: “If those smiles still don’t come, please just keep in mind, you won’t be sad forever! It just might take some time.” This is a message that everybody, young, old, and in between, should take to heart.
At the very end of the book, the authors have included a note for parents and caregivers suggesting how to use this book to talk about sadness with their children. This note, and the exercises contained within, are the perfect supplementary material for this book. Brochmann and Bowen have provided readers with the tools to help their kids get through their first bouts of sadness.
A Feel Better Book for Little Tears is now available.
About the Authors and Illustrator
Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen are sisters and coauthors. Leah has a master of education degree in counseling with a focus in play therapy. She is a licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist. Holly has a degree in journalism and enjoys creative writing both as a hobby and as a primary part of her career in public relations. Both sisters live in Texas.
Shirley Sng-Benitez illustrates and writes picture books and is the owner of the design firm Gabby & Co. She lives in San Martin, California.