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Reading “Feelings”

Feelings

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, a week designed to raise awareness and start conversations. My picture-book, Feelings, aims to start those conversations about the emotions we experience much earlier – getting children to recognise and understand what feelings are.

Picture books are magical things. They introduce children to wonderful creatures, imaginary places and the art of storytelling but that’s not all. They also teach children to read pictures and to understand imagery before they can even read words. Feelings, uses picture book principles to help children read and understand how emotions feel without prescription and, most importantly, without judgement.

Feelings is a peek-through picture book that looks to take the reader on a journey through a range of emotions they might experience, with the philosophy of:

Looking from the outside, I may seem the same as you, but deep beneath the surface feelings bubble, stir and brew…”.

The same character appears on every spread, by way of a central cutaway, to explore the emotional spectrum. My Publisher, Thomas Truong, came up with this format to give readers a ‘guide’ and illustrator Richard Jones deliberately made the character androgynous so not to exclude any readers from the journey.

Illustrator Richard Jones explains what it was like to tackle the huge subject of feelings through art:

The moment I read the text for Feelings I knew it could be not only a thoughtful, magical book but a useful one too.

Having worked in a busy children’s library for nearly 15 years I was aware there are very few accessible books for children that tackle the complicated, knotty subject of feelings.

Although there are many tangled distinctions between feeling and emotion it was my role as the illustrator to focus on the feeling – the unique reaction to an emotional response that makes us the person we are. 

Each page needed to be imaginative, inventive and interesting to young eyes but not so specific or abstruse that the reader cannot relate to the feeling portrayed.

FeelingsFeelings is a book designed to start conversations about how we feel, to help make children feel comfortable and confident in talking about or drawing their emotions. It can be used both in the classroom for art projects and poetry lessons or as a one-on-one storybook, allowing parents to guide their child. We’ve had some lovely responses from teachers and bloggers posting the pictures children have done to show how they feel and we’d love to see more! Use the tag #FeelingsBook to share and discuss – join the conversation.

 

Feelings can be purchased online (Amazon, Waterstones, etc.) or in your local bookshop.

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Writing ‘Feelings’ and Expressing Emotions

As regular TTWers will know, my job involves writing children’s books as well as editing them. Every single one of my books, from a sticker activity to a touch-and-feel with sound, means the absolute world to me but this Friday’s post is introduces one title that is extra, super special.

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Feelings is a peek-through picture book that takes the reader on a journey through the emotions they might experience. It isn’t prescriptive or a handbook telling children how to deal with their feelings, it just describes how each emotion feels with the philosophy of “Looking from the outside, I may seem the same as you, but deep beneath the surface feelings bubble, stir and brew…

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My Publisher came to me with the idea of writing a feelings book with a fixed character appearing throughout. He had already scoped out an illustrator for the project, the amazingly talented Richard Jones, so it was just the small case (!) of coming up with the concept and writing the book ready to brief.

I have to say, I don’t have a fixed process for writing. Sometimes I start writing in a notepad, making word bubbles, or typing combinations of rhymes in Word but with Feelings it began more clinically than other projects – in an Excel spreadsheet! Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of an abstract subject matter with the order of a grid but, by gradually making lists of feelings and buzzwords, a book plan was formed and I began writing.

To write how something feels can be quite tricky so for most of the emotions, I let the list of buzzwords I’d associated with the main feelings lead me towards a senario. For example for ‘Alone’ the words lonely, isolated, uncertain and vulnerable drew me towards the image of a floating bubble. Once the image was decided upon, I could then write the verse to accompany it and so on.

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Feeling lonely…

I think that anyone who picks up this book will be blown away by the artwork from Richard Jones. He has done a stunning job bringing everything to life and I am very lucky to have worked with him on this project (and he’s such a lovely man too!) Feelings is Richard’s debut picture book so it became a very exciting project for both of us (and I can say “I knew him when…” when his illustration career takes off!) Richard has put his thoughts on the book here, sharing some early character sketches and developmental work.

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So much joy and happiness!

For Richard, Elle Ward (the designer on the project) and myself this was a collaboration – working together on every spread to create, what we hope will be, a book to treasure as well as start conversation. Children learn to read pictures before they read words and with Feelings we hope to stretch that further, helping children to read and discuss emotions too.

You can purchase a copy of Feelings here and join in the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #FeelingsBook. I’m excited to see what you think!!