Children’s books are often didactic; teaching lessons in (hopefully) creative and entertaining ways. I can recall, just off the top of my head, books about using the potty, or Everyone Poops, and even recently I reviewed The Kissing Hand, in which a youngster learns it is okay to leave the nest. This teaching-lesson children’s book, Is a Worry Worrying You?, by authors Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, with illustrations by Marie LeTourneau, takes on a challenge by anthropomorphizing a ‘feeling.’
The book starts right out and asks the question, “What is a worry, anyway?”
The answer comes on the next pages with, “A worry is a thought that stops you from having fun, from feeling good, from being happy.”
Excellent! That seems an appropriate, succinct definition for a children’s book. In the next page it tells a little more … that you needn’t bother looking for a worry, because it is invisible. And if the book built more on this premise I’d be much more, solidly behind the book, but this is where it takes off on a tangent, in my opinion.
First, let’s recognize that while the book tells the children that a worry is invisible, we are clearly seeing a tangible, artists representation of a Worry. A dark, fearsome blue creature that looks as though it might have been an understudy for Where the Wild Things Are. If a worry is invisible, why are we seeing it?
The story goes on to identify different types of worry, which, when you think about it, is hard to do. How would you describe ‘worry’ to a child? I’m not sure that I could define worry, but I’m also not sure that the definitions within are ‘worry’ as much as they are ‘fear.’ If a monster moves in under your bed and you’re afraid to go to bed at night…is that a worry, or is that fear? A friend gets hurt and comes to you for help and you don’t know what to do. Is that worry, or is that a feeling of helplessness?
For a child who might be prone to anxiety/worry, it seems that this book might actually hurt, rather than be helpful. The drawings can be a bit dark, and the suggested ‘worries’ are equal parts humorous and fearsome (okay…it’s absurd to think that a rhinoceros might be walking down the street toward me…but if it did … I’d be more than just worried)!
I like (mostly) the six pages near the end that offer suggestions on how to deal with a worry. Offering suggestions of other things to do to take the child’s mind off the concern, or simply facing the situation or talking about it with someone. These seem like effective means of dealing with a child’s worry. Though I wasn’t too keen on seeing children nailing a board across a doorway in a house, sealing the not-so-invisible Worry in a separate room. But I very much like that the authors suggest that we face the worries (even though it also suggests to hide a worry away).
The art is appropriately children’s-book-cartoonish, although a little on the dark side. I am also not sure why we have to see a ‘Worry’ as something tangible, and a bit frightening, at that.
It’s an admirable challenge… to write a children’s picture book about ‘worry.’ I don’t know what other options are out there. I can imagine myself picking this up and reading it to my children, but perhaps only once, as I’m not convinced it would help.
Looking for a good book? If you are dealing with a child with anxiety or worry issues, this might help, but it’s darkness (in story and art) may prove less than comforting.
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Is a Worry Worrying You?
authors: Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz
artist: Marie LeTourneau
publisher: Tanglewood Press
hardcover, 32 pages