This week sees the publication of Nadiya Hussain’s picture book, My Monster and Me, complete with illustrations by Ella Bailey whose work includes the series One Day On Our Blue Planet and No Such Thing.
Nadiya Hussain’s previous books have included Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story and Nadiya’s Bake Me a Celebration Story which I previously reviewed in a blog post Exploring Picture Books on Food. However, My Monster and Not Me is not connected to food at all and instead is an exploration of feelings that both young and older readers will be able to relate.
Emotional disorders have become more common in children as young as 5 years old. *In 1999 statistics showed that 4.3% of children aged 5-15 were experiencing emotional disorders compared to 5.8% in 2017. Unfortunately there is still much stigma surrounding mental health and children’s mental health, some would argue, is not receiving as much focus as it should.
Books of course can be a wonderful resource in opening up discussions, for readers to understand such emotions, and for some to see that they are not suffering alone. Having suffered from panic disorder herself Nadiya Hussain has written a reassuring story that aims to encourage discussion with children about anxiety and emotions.
At the start of the story readers meet a nameless young boy stood next to what he calls “my monster.” A monster who is far bigger then the young boy but whose appearance is softened somewhat by his yellow exterior.
The book goes on to explore how this monster is always by the young boys side. He longs to do things like play with his friends but the monster “stood in his way.” The monster leads to the boy having feelings such as anger and frustration and as much as he attempts to lose the monster he just can’t.
It’s not until the boy gets very upset and expresses how he truthfully feels to his Grandma that things begin to change in the story. Of course the positive progress could take some time for some children experiencing similar emotions. However, it’s wonderful to see that the importance of talking to someone is highlighted here and shown to not be a sign of weakness. In this case, the more the young boy talked about his emotions and his monster, the less prevalent the anxious feelings were for the boy which is represented in the story as the monster shrinking.
The monster by far is not a monster like an imaginary friend that a child may wish to be there but a metaphor for the boy’s emotions. Some children may take the idea of the monster being there literally however, this provides a great talking point to further explore.
Ella Bailey’s expressive illustrations truly bring the story to life and are in keeping with its target audience of young readers. It’s also great to see a diverse male character as the main character highlighting that we all have feelings and can all be emotional regardless of our gender.
This would be a great book to share at home and in a learning setting. It could result in a child expressing how they truly feel and equally a great one representing that talking about your feelings really matters.
The book will be published on the 17th October.
*Statistics from Department of Health and Social Care, commissioned by NHS Digital, and carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, the Office for National Statistics and Youthinmind.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publishers for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.