Saturday, September 8, 2018

Review - Worry Says What?

Worry Says What?
by Allison Edwards
illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio
Date: 2018
Publisher: National Center for Youth Issues
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Allison Edwards, author of the best-selling book Why Smart Kids Worry, gives a glimpse into the ways worry whispers to young minds, and offers a powerful tool all children can use to silence those fears.

“Worry’s songs tie my tummy up in knots,
and the things he says make my heart beat very fast.
Sometimes he speaks in a whisper, and other times
his voice gets so loud I can’t hear anything else.”

Worry and anxiety are currently the top mental health issues among children and teens. Children have a number of worries throughout childhood that will come and go. The problem is not with the worries themselves, but that children believe the worries to be true. With a relatable story and beautiful artwork, Worry Says What? will help children (and adults!) flip their thinking when anxious thoughts begin and turn them into powerful reminders of all they are capable of accomplishing.

(see this book on Goodreads)

As someone who has suffered from anxiety for most of her life, I was interested in reading this book for kids to see how the topic of worry would be dealt with. I was one of those kids who was always worrying about something: dying of old age, losing my teeth, nuclear war (hey, it was the early '80s, and the Cold War was still on), the sun expanding into a red giant. I'm still a worrier, though much of that has to do with a severe case of OCD. This brings me to my main worry (pun intended?) about this book.

Simple worries, such as the ones portrayed in the story (the worry that you won't do well on a test, the worry that the other kids won't want to play with you, etc.), are fairly easily shot down because they can quickly be verified to be false (you take the test and do well, you ask someone to play with you and they say yes, etc.). But what happens when you're worrying about something far in the future? How can you prove to that little voice in your head that there really is nothing to worry about?

That seems to be beyond the scope of this book, but for kids who are bona fide worrywarts, tips on how to deal with those sorts of worries might have been helpful. There's also the matter of worry and anxiety that can be brought on by physical causes, where no amount of reassurance or self-talk is going to help because the anxiety is being caused by brain inflammation. You simply can't talk your way out of that. (For a great example of how approaching these problems from a purely psychological viewpoint can go horrifyingly wrong, check out Susannah Cahalan's story, Brain on Fire.)

If this book had been given to me when I was a child, I know that it would have made little difference. And then the worry would have been compounded, because I would've felt like a failure for not being able to get my worries under control. (I know this, because this is how I felt for much of my childhood; no matter how hard I tried, there was just no way to work around my worrisome thoughts. I still have a number of self-help books for kids sitting around as evidence that this sort of approach doesn't work for everyone.)

So I'm a bit conflicted about this one. The idea is laudable, the story is easy to understand, and the illustrations are beautiful. Would it work for kids who have mild anxiety and worry? Maybe. They might even find it empowering. But I'm concerned about the kids with more severe anxiety that might be rooted in physical causes. I'm afraid they won't get much out of this, and their self-esteem will take another hit as a result. I have to recommend this one with reservations.

Quotable moment:

The truth is, listening to Worry is ruining my life.
He never makes me feel better. He always makes me worse.

Thank you to NetGalley and National Center for Youth Issues for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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