The bravest word by Kate Foster

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The Bravest Word is written by Kate Foster, Australian Yoga teacher, Author and Family Constellations Therapist.  On her homepage it says that Foster guides...' others to courageously trust their own precious hearts...'  Her previous novel Paws has been very well received. Paws deals with self awareness and understanding of mental illness. The Bravest Word similarly needs to be promoted in every school library and placed into the hands of every Middle School  teacher because it deals with such a serious subject - anxiety and depression in young people and how to recognise and deal with it. Hats off and congratulations to Kate Foster for bringing this subject into the open in such a sympathetic and engaging way. Dogs play a significant healing role in both books.

We see the world through the first person voice of eleven-year-old Matt. Matt is side-swiped by the onset of feelings that he has never had before and doesn't understand. Once the star football player, full of light and laughter, he suffers a panic attack during a football game. He withdraws from his friends, doesn't feel normal, can't enjoy his sport, can't concentrate on his school work and has physical and emotional symptoms that make him just want to sleep in his bedroom day and night. Foster skilfully depicts the struggle of the parents as they have to understand and accept that their son has Depression (the hardest word) and what that means for his future. Matt's aspirational mother has driven him hard to be the successful son particularly with sport. His father recognises the problem sooner and is able to reach out, intercede and stand up for Matt. Pivotal to the story is the discovery and adoption of an abused dog that Matt names Cliff. Matt and Cliff are on parallel journeys of healing - both being enormously essential to each other.

Matt  writes as Cliff under the moniker Cliff-The-Abandoned-Dog journaling on a type of interactive blogsite called PICROLL. Many followers share the journey which morphs from a focus on Cliff to a focus on Matt. People from all over the world share their experiences with mental health issues. Matt begins to understand that he is not alone.

The Bravest Word is written in such a warm and knowing style that any person suffering even the slightest hint of anxiety or depression will instantly recognise their own feelings and be comforted. It is a riveting read. Foster traces the path of the illness, the effects on Matt and his family and the impacts on schoolwork, sport and friendships with such clarity that one wonders how she knows so much. 

This is answered at the end in the acknowledgements when Foster states... 'I can promise there is someone out there who will listen. And I can promise this because one of those is me.' The Author's note at the end discusses depression in the most helpful way and includes a list of contacts of organisations that give support and advice.

Bravo Kate Foster! This is an important book. Please get it into the hands of our young people.

Themes: Dogs, Family, Mental illness, Friendship.

Wendy Jeffrey