Kate and The Thing
Heidi Cooper Smith
Wombat Books, 2018
32pp. hbk., RRP $A24.99
Kate is about to start her first day at a new school, and like thousands of other kids who have to face the same experience, she is feeling anxious and reluctant. But then a mysterious white Thing comes into her life and helps her set the fear aside temporarily as it shows her the beauty in the colour of the autumn leaves and the joy in the sound of the sidewalk buskers. All through her first day and the days following, Kate has the Thing by her side, giving her courage and confidence to hang in there, take each new event one step at a time and gradually stepping back so she can go it alone.
Then one day she spots a new boy, sitting forlornly and lonely on a bench, a Thing next to his side that he hasn’t yet seen…
Every child who has faced being new at somewhere or something will relate to and empathise with Kate. The feelings of having to step into the unknown and even the uncomfortable will be familiar and they will relate to having The Thing, or Some Thing giving them invisible support to keep putting one foot in front of the other until the walk is mastered, giving great scope for exploring feelings and emotions and building vocabulary.
This story offers a couple of lines of investigation – before and after. While Kate has The Thing to support her, it’s helpful to teach students how to prepare for new situations by having them envisage what might go wrong and having some strategies to deal with these if indeed they happen. Knowing that even if the worst comes to the worst you have some action you can take can often give an added boost of confidence.
At the other end of the spectrum, as teachers many of us will have had new students starting in our classes over the past couple of weeks as new terms start around the states. So perhaps this is a time to check up on them and see how they are settling in, that no one is slipping through the cracks in the busyness that is the start of the school year.
Heidi Cooper Smith has written a story that everyone can relate to and which can offer a springboard to more than just the story of Kate and her Thing.