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.
Feelings 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.