Review Blog

May 20 2015

Don't think about purple elephants by Susan Whelan

cover image

Ill. by Gwynneth Jones. Exisle Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9781921966699
(Age: 4-8) Highly recommended. Subjects: Anxiety, Worry, Overcoming Fear, Bedtime, Family Life, Psychology. Susan Whelan draws from her own family experiences with a young daughter who was anxious about bedtime, when all the worries of the day crowded in. Their solution was to refocus the thinking, when told not to imagine colourful animals like pink elephants, green meerkats or turquoise giraffes, of course she would! Her worries started to disappear as she imagined all the wonderful activities they could participate in and the worries disappeared.
Sophie only worries sometimes, school is fun playing with her friends and engaging in learning and she enjoys afternoons playing games and drawing. Her weekends are filled with reading, gardening, baking and watching the clouds pass by. At bedtime, when life quietens down then the dark clouds of worry start to roll in. She begins the what if scenarios and she can't settle down to sleep, resulting in a very tired little girl the next day. Her loving family try to help with warm milk and honey, sharing toys, but nothing works. Her mother finally tells her 'go to bed, close your eyes and DON'T think about purple elephants.
Purple elephants of all shapes and sizes take over, swirling in her long blonde hair, sipping her milk, drink playing with her toys, calming her fears. Sophie is not tired at school and even draws purple elephants.
Gwynneth Jones' creative illustrations complement the narrative. Bright, happy colours are used when Sophie is enjoying life, however, when the worries creep in tones of black and grey take over. The pivotal page shows Sophie and her friend swinging high in the blue sky and soft white clouds, then as the worries creep in, the sky darkens and she's suspended in space, tucked in her bed. Her dark thoughts are shown with a comedic quality, no milk for breakfast means Sophie leads a dairy cow into the kitchen ready for her to begin milking. Her cereal bowl is the focus and is highlighted in red. The pink elephants cavorting over the pages are a delight, there's one sitting on the toilet sipping hot milk! Watch for the cat's antics as well, is he in the washing machine and stealing the giant apple?
This book is a fabulous resource, for supporting children's social and emotional wellbeing, for health practitioners, schools, kindergartens and for families to share.
Rhyllis Bignell

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