I had the great privilege of attending the Oregon Parent Educator Conference earlier this year virtually and heard an amazing keynote by Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen. She is a terrific speaker and author and is incredibly well-versed in the field of trauma, especially childhood and family trauma. Dr. Ippen has written some amazing children’s books that approach and help children understand trauma and their feelings; and thanks to a wonderful local bookseller: Jennifer Butler-Brown, Bookseller (who personally delivered these books to my doorstep!) I was able to purchase these books during the conference and wanted to share my recommendations and reviews with you.
Holdin Pott – Chandra Ghosh Ippen
This is my favorite of the stories I read as I can definitely relate to “Holdin’s” mindset of holding everything in, not complaining and pushing feelings down. If you’ve grown up in a sports culture you know the difficulties and pressures you can sometimes feel to stuff or hide emotions that are “weak” or “soft”. Holdin Pott has spent his whole life stuffing those feelings deemed “shameful” or not appropriate to share and has become hardened because of it. It is only once he sees the effect of this modeled behavior on “Little Pott”, who blows because he is too young to handle and stuff everything, that he realizes that stuffing, ignoring and pushing down the feelings makes everything more difficult…and more likely to explode. Holdin is able to relate to Little Pott and both can express their feelings of sadness and frustration together. Little Pott finally feels comfortable and safe because he knows he can share his feelings with Holdin safely and will be comforted by him. I also really appreciate at the end of the story the acknowledgement that “pots who tease need holdin’ too”…not to excuse the behavior of bullying, but rather to acknowledge that a lot of the bully’s desire to lash out and inflict pain comes from not having their emotional needs met themselves. I highly recommend this book for all families and children, especially those who are dealing with expressing and feeling big emotions and frustrations.
Daddy’s Waves – Chandra Ghosh Ippen
This is a book that I was really excited about receiving and reading as it has a very gentle way of introducing and supporting a child whose father his battling depression. While I couldn’t completely relate to the family situation presented, I have talked at length about my struggles with depression and felt this book could support both myself and my family. I love the idea of them going to the beach in this book as it is my happy place, and the idea of depression rolling in waves that sometimes take Daddy with them. This book is sweet, sometimes funny, and well-written to help support children who are dealing with “Daddy’s Waves” and who may be confused as to why Daddy isn’t always there and why he can seem like so much fun in certain moments, but very angry and sad in others.
Once I Was Very Scared – Chandra Ghosh Ippen
A beautifully written book that any child who has dealt with trauma or just scary feelings, situations and thoughts will relate to. Each of the animals in this book portrays a different way of responding and dealing with trauma. Some go silent, some don’t want to talk about it and will tell you so, some run away, some cling to whoever is closest, some defend themselves and some lash out at others. All of these responses in and of themselves aren’t bad or wrong…they are how we cope and are based on our temperament, but they can also create walls and difficulties that we put up that keep us from growing and moving forward. My daughter was quick to point out when reading this (without any prompting) that she loved the porcupine character in this book, and I could not agree more. The porcupine is sweet and gentle, with an affirming and kind word for everyone. The porcupine meets everyone where they are…validates their feelings and invites them to express them in a way and time that feels comfortable for them. Porcupine doesn’t push or force, but is just simply there…physically and emotionally…and encourages them to explore and better understand their feelings and fears. This is a great book for all children and will help build empathy, kindness and understanding.
Lola Gets A Cat – Anna McQuinn
Ok…so this book doesn’t quite fit in with the others in terms of theme, but I have a cat that I love and my daughter loves cats and we’ve really enjoyed other books in the Lola series before…so…I had to get it 🙂 This book is really great at helping children understand the responsibility and importance of getting and keeping a pet. It’s beautifully illustrated and Lola is adorable…as is her cat. This book actually also supports emotional development in a way as well as pets can be wonderful for kids (and adults!) in this area, and the process of making sure everything is carefully considered before adoption is really important. Plus representation is a major bonus of this story as it shows an adorable little African-American girl and her family doing normal everyday things.
I highly recommend each of those stories and hope that you will support small, independent booksellers and authors by purchasing them for your family and friends for holiday gifts.
This is understanding our feelings…
This is fatherhood…