A girl with anxiety disorder learns how to manage her condition and discovers her skills in this illustrated children’s book.
An unnamed girl has a happy, secure life with her divorced parents, younger brother, and relatives. One day, though, something “terrible and sad” happens, and the girl never sees her auntie again. As a result, the girl becomes “sadder and sadder,” spending more time on her own and rejecting her friends. On top of that, she starts fretting all the time about making mistakes and trying new things; she has nightmares and panic attacks; her joy is lost. Her parents send her to a youth counselor, who recommends writing down worries and putting them in a box—“but the box was never big enough.” The child’s mother helps her winnow down the box of worries, and after a year, the girl starts feeling better and begins noticing her strengths, such as being organized, careful, sensitive, and imaginative. A diagnosis of anxiety disorder helps make sense of her experience, and she rediscovers her joy through helping others and embracing the support of “friends, family, and community.” Weston (The Boy Who Lost His Attention, 2019, etc.), an elementary school teacher with special needs students, explains anxiety disorder in terms children can understand. For example, the girl “worried about getting germs, so she constantly washed her hands over and over again until they bled.” The author’s tone is warm and sympathetic, and in stressing the girl’s talents, or “superpowers,” Weston provides a hopeful outlook. But she goes too far in suggesting that the girl has assets “that other people did not”; surely nonanxious children also can, for example, be “intelligent with an excellent memory.” The box technique seems to be about parental reassurance, but several experts note that reassurance is often ineffective. The book does include some (Canada-centric) basic information and resources on anxiety. The images by debut illustrator Shotton are bare-bones and often pixelated, with the girl far less detailed than her dog, Oliver (the only character with a name).
Kids with anxiety can see themselves in this tale and gain hope for recovery.