Greenwillow Books, 2010
32pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99
Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night.
“Worry, worry, worry,” her family said. “Too much worry.”
And like many children, Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realises that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!
Wemberly Mouse’s anxiety is on an extreme scale though and regardless of her family’s reassurances she cannot relax. She clutches Petal her doll and strokes her ears when the levels rise, but then worries if she strokes them too much they will fall off. She is so good at thinking “What if” that she may have a career as a writer when she grows up!
As the year ticks by and many of our younger children are going to start the transition from daycare and preschool to big school, there will be those who are starting to get a little anxious already with all the usual concerns that making such a big step encounters. And those worries can become so enormous that they become fears and the anticipation and excitement of this new adventure that is somewhat of a rite of passage are overwhelmed.
Often it is not enough to just say, “Don’t worry”, (as Wemberly’s family does) to children with a high level of anxiety – they need to have their fears listened to and, where appropriate, helped to develop coping strategies should the worst happen. There are many resources available now to help parents help their child but sometimes when little ones go to big school there is a suggestion that it is time to leave their preschool lives behind, including their beloved toys that have been with them since birth and have been their confidante and security blanket in stressful times. And yet with this huge change in their lives they are left without the companionship of their most trusted and comforting friend and ally. Wemberly would have been unable to cope without Petal just as Jewel would have been lost without Nibblet. The astute teacher will acknowledge that these are more than just a collection of stitches and stuffing, that they are imbued with love, safety and security, and perhaps having a special shelf so the special toys can come to school too with the child deciding when they want to wean themselves. Meanwhile the teacher librarian can encourage them to read to their special toy in school and at night and might even provide a collection of teddies for those who just need an extra hug or two. It worked for me!
This book has been in continuous publication since its release in 2000 – that, in itself, says so much about how it resonates with little children and needs to be part of that transition process. There will be both a Wemberly and a Jewel in each new cohort.