Encouragement: Actually, I Can

Today’s book is one I’ve been looking forward to for some time – it’s the much anticipated Actually, I Can from Nicky Johnston (Rough Draft).

actually i canNicky’s first two books Go Away Mr Worrythoughts and Happythoughts are Everywhere are amongst my favourite books for kids, and Nicky’s work with kids working through anxiety is priceless. We were really lucky to have Nicky join us for one of the TBYL Events earlier in the year (you can read about it here) and I’ve been eager to find out what she had next up her sleeve to help with the little worriers in our lives.

Actually, I Can is the story of Connor and Amelia. Connor, a little worrier, is afraid to try many of the things that Amelia takes in her stride. She encourages him to be brave and give things ago, and although it takes him a little while to let go of his fear, he does with her encouragement eventually put his anxiety aside and realise that actually, he can.

It’s a positive message, easy relatable and of course accompanied by Nicky’s gorgeous illustrations. The books is both easily comprehended by children, and enjoyable for adults to read.

Personally, there are two things that I love about this books. The first is that it is refreshingly realistic. It acknowledges that not all kids are frightened all of the time, and likewise, not all kids are brave in ever circumstance. Connor and Amelia, adorable characters, take it in turns to support and encourage each other, resulting in them both being able to have a wonderful day out together!

The second thing that I love about this book is that the lesson is an important one for kids and adults alike. I’m sure I’m not alone in being held back by anxiety and fear at times, and as I read this book to Oscar, it is a reminder that I should resist ‘paralysis through fear’, if for no other reason than to teach my own kids to do the same.

I was intrigued to find out a little more about Actually, I Can and asked Nicky a few questions last week…

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This is a similar but new story to your previous books… could you tell us about the inspiration behind this story?
I am often asked by parents of ‘little worriers’ how to handle their child’s constant ‘what if’ questions. I encourage parents to challenge these thoughts, prompting their child to answer their own questions – of course the answers can have either a negative or positive outcome, depending on what their thoughts are at the time.

 ‘Change your thoughts to change your feelings’ was my inspirational statement for Actually, I Can, demonstrating that Connor actually can have some fun, once he began answering his what if questions in a positive way.

Are you planning to work this book into your school talks and productions at all?
I love all school visit opportunities and the theme of my books work perfectly throughout my presentations. We all have ‘what if’ questions, and worry thoughts, and by sharing my own journey of writing and illustrating, I am able to help children learn ways they too can build their resilience to things as well as maintaining a positive outlook on their world, all while inspiring them to consider their own writing and illustrating skills.

With the theatrical production of Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts being so well received in primary schools, I would love to see Actually, I Can also become transformed into an additional theatrical production. Discussions and ideas have already begun with the many creative people I have worked with Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts production. There is so much possibility and potential for this to develop in the future, I am reaching for the stars and aiming high!

Your illustrations in this new book are beautiful, how much time did you take putting this new set of works together?
I really wanted my illustrations of Actually, I Can to be a different style from those of my first two books. The recent illustrations took much longer in their design and creation than my previous books, taking me almost 8 months to complete. I enjoyed creating them all and I even have a few favourites too, which is quite unusual for me. There were many illustrations that didn’t make it into the book and I love sharing this insight with children during my school visits.

What’s the take home message of ‘Actually, I Can’?
When you change your thoughts from fear to belief, the way you feel and the outcome will always seem better. It is amazing what you can achieve when you actually let go of your fears, believe in yourself and just have a go. The skill of learning to ‘let go’ is a great concept for children, and with practice this can become an easy way to live, it gets harder as we grow into adults as our thought patterns are far more set in concrete – but even then it is always still possible to learn.

 

What’s the feedback been like so far?
I have been quite overwhelmed with the feedback since the release of Actually, I Can beginning of August. Parents, teachers, children and reviewers have all been extremely glowing in their comments and feedback.

Here are just a few messages I have received…

‘Beautifully written and illustrated’

‘Gorgeous, heartfelt, life changing are three words that aptly describe Nicky’s books’

‘Thank you for giving us another bedtime favourite book’.

The two young characters are lovely, do you have any future plans for them?
Both Amelia and Connor have become characters that children have already become quite taken with.

I love their opposite personality characteristics, yet understanding and admiration for each other.

There is definitely another adventure of Connor and Amelia that will be told in the future, so, be sure to keep an eye out for another children’s book with an even greater insight into how well these children know each other and grow together.

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You can find out more about Nicky and her books at the Happy Hero website.

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Chatting and learning: TBYL Event No. 1

Yesterday I was pretty nervous. I prepped and preened, anxiously awaiting the very first TBYL Event, Making Tough Times Easier.

Late in the afternoon I took my lists, my notes and myself into the Wheeler Centre. Setting up, I waited with baited breath to see what others would make of TBYL’s grand plan to bring bookish people together, in real life.

I’m pleased to report that it was an amazing evening, complete with revealing insights, great conversations and new connections.

Making Tough Times Easier 1

Making Tough Times Easier was an opportunity to explore how picture books can be used to help parents, carers and educators coach kids through challenges, helping them to become resilent and happier kids.

Sometimes little people have to deal with big challenges.

I was thrilled to be joined by four talented and passionate storytellers; Nicky Johnston (Go Away Mr Worrythoughts), Leon James Wisewould and Paul Nash (Mitchell the Pixel) and Bambi Gordon (Oodlies Kids) all of whom shared a little bit about how their books came about, how they hoped to see them help kids and the positive impacts they’ve seen their work have on the readers around them.

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A common theme across the panel was that of their books being ‘conversation starters’ and this really seemed to resonate with the audience. These important picture books don’t just offer a small lesson in and of themselves, but further encourage children and adults to talk about worries and troubles. They help kids work out ways in which they can overcome challenges, with help and encouragement.

Making Tough Times Easier 4I absolutely loved the questions from the audience, as they teased out more about the process of writing and illustrating, as well as giving rise to a little more information on the issues that kids might face in this day and age. We had some great conversations about recognising anxiety in kids and assisting kids to recognise their troubles and ‘find their own magic.’

Making Tough Times Easier 5I’d hoped to keep the session pretty informal, and at times I really felt that we were just having a good chat about picture books. After the sit-down session there was a chance for everyone to catch up, share their own experiences and ask questions of the authors themselves.

In short, today I’m on cloud nine, and I can’t wait to hold the next TBYL Event. I’ve got some big ideas, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them!

I’ve got to say  a great big thank-you to Nicky, Leon, Paul and Bambi. I would also like to thank Joan and Linda for their help on the night, it’s greatly appreciated, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Making Tough Times Easier 2

If you’d like to purchase any of these author’s books, they’re all available now in the TBYL Store, click below for individual titles…

Go Away Mr Worrythoughts, Nicky Johnston $16.95
Happythoughts are Everywhere, Nicky Johnston $16.95
Mitchell the Pixel, Leon James Wisewould and Paul Nash $16.95
If a Smile Should Lose Its Mouth, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00
What You Do Is Not Your Who, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00
I Think I’ve Lost The Magic, Bambi Gordon and Joi Murugavell $15.00

And for a short time only, you can get all 6 books for just $85.85 (saving of $10.00)

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in our first event, you made it a resounding success! Stay tuned for more TBYL Events: book it in… coming soon!

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Frankly my dear…

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with how words work, and how they can be used for better or worse to influence people. For this reason, Words that Hijack the Brain seemed right up my ally.  I was keen to hear some ideas that might shed some light on how those pesky little songs, nagging trends and clever jingles burrow themselves deeply into our brains and pass from person to person so readily.

The lecture was presented by Judi Menzies, the moderator of the Philosophy Group (an informal group that runs out of the library and meets to discuss the big questions) and she kindly presented the lecture as part of the 2011 Bayside Literary Festival.

Although the lecture itself didn’t hang together quite right, it introduced some really interesting ideas.  Not the least of which was the basic idea of Memes, a term used to describe “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme is by definition self-replicating, and as Judi notes, is a little like a virus that spreads through a culture, most often harmlessly. Interestingly they can at times take on a more sinister shape.

I didn’t completely agree with everything that Judi put forward, and I think it might have been beneficial to hear more about her fear of the more negative, fundamental memes (statements of religious zeal, slogans of violence or revenge etc). Likewise, I would have liked her to venture a guess as to what it is that makes phrases like ‘Chick, chick, boom‘ or classic lines like ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn‘ strike such a cultural cord, taking root quickly and immovably. Is it that they’re particularly clever? Is it that they are annoying? Maybe it’s that they have a sing-song quality, making them easy to remember (or hard to forget)?

There’s no doubt, the ideas presented were very interesting and I might spend a little bit of time looking into this further.

Image: Nicky Johnston

The event was held at the Brighton Library, and so I got to check out Nicky Johnston’s art while I was there. It was really great to see a range of Nicky’s illustrations and scenic pieces.

Nicky is the author of two great kid’s book, Go Away, Mr Worrythoughts and Happy Thoughts are Everywhere written to help parent’s work with anxious kids, as Nicky says – their ‘little worriers.’ She’s also put together resource kits to further assist families for whom childhood mental health issues are presenting challenges. If you’d like to find out more about her books, you can check out further information at her website…

Before I go tonight, I’ve got to confess that against my better judgement June isn’t looking much quieter than May was. I’m very pleased to have picked up some tickets to see the play The Haunting of Daniel Gartell, starring John Wood, Samuel Johnson and Marcella Russo, showing at Fortyfive Downstairs. Check out discount tix here. I’m also pretty keen to get along to a couple of kids’ events in the next couple of weeks, which I’ll post about over the weekend.

As an aside, I’ve promised myself that I’ll get some reading done this weekend. I hope that you can put your feet up and steal a few reading moments for yourself this weekend.

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