A great resource for an elementary school counselor’s office to have on hand for kids who need help managing their emotional...

Courageous Gilbert the Groundhog

A shy groundhog learns how to get in touch with his feelings and stand up for himself in this kids’ book by debut author McCarthy and illustrator Dettman.

Gilbert the Groundhog loves music and enjoys collecting things, but when it comes to interacting with his peers, he gets nervous—especially when the sharp-toothed and -tongued Peter Opossum teases him. When no one offers Gilbert a seat in the school cafeteria, he runs across the playground to an old oak. Luckily for him, this particular oak is a wise old tree who offers him advice on how to feel better. After the tree leads Gilbert in a deep-breathing exercise with an awkward mnemonic (“Breathe-in-for-four. Hold-this-heaven-till-count-of-seven. Exhale-for-eight-and-you-will-feel-great!”), the groundhog finds that he does feel better. But that technique isn’t all he needs to overcome his troubles at school: when his peers mock him for stumbling through his book report, for example, the deep breathing doesn’t help. The tree gently coaches him to listen to his body: “You are feeling your emotions….They can be in your heart, in your stomach, or anywhere in your body.” But just recognizing emotions isn’t the final step; the old oak tree advises Gilbert to practice expressing them, too, so that he can manage them when troubles arise. That practice turns out to be the key to the groundhog’s becoming comfortable with himself, making friends, and standing up to a bully. There’s plenty of material available out there for kids about dealing with bullies, but this title goes beyond that particular situation to offer a guide to handling uncontrollable feelings by breathing, feeling, and practicing. Such guidance offers young and middle-grade readers a fantastic resource for learning how to cope with their problems at school or at home. McCarthy’s use of the sympathetic Gilbert and his wise oak mentor makes the scenario feel detached enough from the real world to be comfortable for children struggling in their own lives. The illustrations of the anthropomorphized characters are charming, and the bullies are given appropriate menace without being too scary. Although the text is dense, especially for beginning readers, the message is encouraging and accessible.

A great resource for an elementary school counselor’s office to have on hand for kids who need help managing their emotional responses.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9862304-1-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Blue Stone Healing Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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