What to say when you don't know what to say by Davina Bell and Hilary Jean Tapper

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With beautifully appropriate soft edged illustrations by Hilary Jean Tapper, the phrases on each page point to words that need to be said to defuse a situation which many children and adults come across. The words point to a kindness, an emotion felt by the speaker, comforting the other person in a situation we can all recognise.

So at home, a child has drawn on the wall, and owns up with ‘I did it’. Many people will see this event, sometimes more often that they wish, but the simple owning up defuses a situation which could cause distress. At home too, a child may feel left out and the simple question, ‘Want to join in?’ makes that person feel part of the group and be thankful that the questioner is so kind. Similarly when at school, one child has wet themselves and the other reassures her that ‘happens to everyone sometimes’, so reaching out to an embarrassed child, offering comfort. In other situations: talking to a person in hospital or an older family member possibly in a nursing home, or needing help in class, all sorts of situations are described by the illustrations and given apt phrases to respond with. Readers will eagerly say what has happened to them in a similar situation and the reader will be able to encourage a response that is appropriate and kind, offering comfort and support.

Very much a book to produce if people in the class are being unkind or showing signs of being unable to resolve a situation, this book has wide educative uses both at home, and in the classroom.

The beautiful illustrations beg to be interpreted and discussed, leading on to revealing emotions and feelings. These emotions will then lead to solutions and the text gives the best solution: kind words, kindly offered as the speaker feels sympathy for the person involved.

Themes: Kindness, Empathy, Sympathy, Family, Friends, Relationships.

Fran Knight