Some picture books have a purpose or a message they want to get across. They do this subtly, gently, and you’re left with an echo of a lesson you’ve learnt by the end of the book. The Big Hug Book series doesn’t do this.
Each of the books, of which there are currently seven, has a very specific message they want to get across. Written by Shona Innes, a qualified clinical and forensic psychiatrist, these books are written with the aim of helping children understand, process, and work through their emotions, in an explicit and gentle way.
Innes has been working with children in need for many years now, and it shows. Her voice is direct and honest, not talking down to the reader, but still addressing the issue in a tone and with imagery they can understand. Each book has a title which introduces an image that helps to explain the emotion. Anger Is Like Armour is one of the books, and in it, Shona uses the image of armour – and armadillos! – to help explain what anger is good for, and when it is negative.
At no point in these books does Innes shame the reader for having certain emotions. In Anger Is Like Armour, Innes walks us through the naturalness of anger, and how sometimes it can be a benefit to have anger, but there are ways of controlling it. Each of the books in The Big Hug Book series is aimed at processing and understanding emotions in a productive and positive way. Innes is not here to rail against any emotions, but instead, acknowledges that they’re a normal part of growing up.
Her books are practical, too, suggesting ways of dealing with emotions in a language that children can understand. In Your Mind Is Like A Garden, Innes explains the concept of mindfulness, and teaches how to tend your mind garden – by taking time out to sit and be with your thoughts, imagining them as flowers planted through your mind.
These books are excellent for any parent wanting to work through emotions with their children, but they’re also a brilliant resource for teachers and social workers, as they impart lessons crucial for young childhood. At the end of every book is a note to parents and teachers from Shona with practical advice about working through the emotions Shona is describing.
With quirky and vibrant illustrations from Írisz Agócs, The Big Hug Book series are a thoughtful and crucial addition to any classroom or home, explaining complex emotions in a tone and language perfect for young children.