What if … ?
EK Books, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Issy’s mind was always very busy. She was always wondering “What if…” and then imagining all sorts of situations that scared her. She worried about monsters in her cupboard, aliens taking her in the middle of the night, her bedroom floor turning to quicksand and sucking up both her bed and her.
But her wise mother recognises the anxiety her imagination causes and the power of those two little words, and as she tucks Issy into bed she takes her turn at the “What if…”” But instead of scary things, she takes Issy and her imagination on an amazing and humorous trip of people walking on their hands and wearing their undies on their head; of clouds of different colours that smell of fairy floss and popcorn… Then she invites Issy to try and when she takes her mind in a new direction, her anxiety vanishes.
This is another beautiful offering from the pairing that gave us stories like Tree, and the Little Anxious Creatures series as the author draws on her expertise and experience as a clinical psychologist to acknowledge children’s big feelings and then articulates them in a way that both resonated with the child and helps them develop strategies that empower them to deal with them for themselves. Changing thinking from what if a storm brews, a tree crashes through my window and a vampire bat flies into my bedroom to what if there were hot air balloons that could take me anywhere I wanted to go following a path made by the stars is as powerful as those two words themselves. As Jenkins says, “we are the bosses of our brains” and thus we can choose what we want to think. Lonergan’s illustrations in soft pastel colours are as gentle as the story itself, and would be the ideal model for little ones to think of their own what if and then illustrate it, thinking of the way colour can portray mood as much as any other element. A physical reminder to look at whenever their mind starts to wander down dark paths…
There has been much talk about the impact that the last 18-20 months has had on the mental health of our children and so this book, and the others by this couple, are more critical to know about and share than ever.
As well as teachers’ notes, Jenkins shares the story herself.