Review of 'Fantastic Fin Faces His Fears' - Jessica Bowers and Andrew Whitehead
Come and join Fantastic Fin as he grows his courage by embodying various inspiring characters and animals to face his fears!
Teachers, Parents and Carers can access the free Fantastic Fin Teaching Resource Pack available from the author's website. This is the first book in a series supporting children's mental health by well-being author and psychotherapist Jessica Bowers. Ideal for children age 4-7.
When I told Arthur I had another children's book to review, his whole face lit up.
'Can I help you with it again, Mummy? Do you have to write about why we like it?'
I nodded. He then paused for a moment and his face fell.
'What if we don't like it?'
He didn't need to worry - he liked it!
I've been very lucky in that both children's books I've reviewed so far have arrived at very appropriate times. This one, as the title suggests, is all about a boy who learns how to face his fears. It's something we've talked about quite a lot over the last few weeks, as Arthur suddenly decided he was frightened of heights. Unfortunately, he made this discovery halfway up Launceston Castle - cue almost hysterical crying and begging us not to make him go the rest of the way. We'd made it to the midpoint of the castle. Dad stayed with him while Henry and I went up to the top. Even the mere suggestion that perhaps he could try to do the last little bit was met with a fresh bout of hysterical crying.
We talked about how fears can be irrational - he admitted that the iron railings were unlikely to give way, 'but they might' and that was enough for him not to trust them. In the end, we gave up and after lots of cuddles, made it back down and back to the house.
However, we were determined not to let this get the better of him and taking a cue from Fin, we used our heads to try and come up with a way we could find Arthur's courage. In the book Fin finds his mind a useful tool in creating alter-egos who are braver than him. In Arthur's case, Scooby Doo turned out to be the inspiration he needed! He likes to pretend our Border Terrier is Scooby Doo, so in the end, we used the dog's car harness clip to attach Arthur to me, via the belt loops on our shorts and that way, side by side, we made it to the top of the castle on our next visit to enjoy the view. It made no sense that a canvas strap would save him when the iron railings wouldn't but it worked!
What all this meant was that Arthur could totally relate to Fin and his fears. It's a scenario lots of children his age will undoubtedly recognise and it gives them another tool to use in trying to overcome them. It's presented in the form of a fun poem, but this is definitely a book about teaching children what to do when they are struggling. For me, I think one of the best things about it is that no-one laughs at his fears. Too often, adults dismiss the fears of children as 'silly' because they often are, but to them, they are all too real and in dismissing them, we're not reassuring our children, but teaching them not to come to us with their worries. It's not always easy and I don't claim to always get it right, but I do try to listen and be sensitive to even the most trivial of concerns. It's time-consuming and it's hard, but I think it's really important for me to do it.
The other thing I really like about this book is that it takes a leaf out of Rick Riordan's approach to his books and has a series of linked activities on the author's website. Fingers crossed there won't be another lockdown, but if I end up trying to find extra activities to challenge Arthur, I'll definitely be downloading the worksheets to have a go at them with him. I also like the fact that children are able to draw pictures of themselves facing their fears to celebrate having overcome them and to share them with the author.
When I asked Arthur to draw his, he drew a picture of us at the top of Launceston Castle. OK, in the picture we're miles apart and in reality he was hanging onto me at all times, but that doesn't matter. The fact is, we made it to the top, he enjoyed it and got to see our flat from the up there. He even told me a few days later that Launceston Castle is now his 'happy place' and he wants us to drive down to the flat the weekend of his birthday so he can go there on his birthday!
Fantastic Fin was a hit in this house and just as the title suggests, he truly is fantastic!
Jessica is a well-being writer with an extensive background in supporting both young people and adults with their emotional well-being and mental health. Jessica is a qualified Counsellor and Psychotherapist who trained at the Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute. Prior to this, she worked for over 10 years with young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Jessica consults with and writes for the wonderful Storytime Magazine, for their emotional well-being and mental health content. She has written a collection of well-being themed children's picture books for 4-7 year olds, and Fantastic Fin Faces his Fears is her debut book. She has also developed some school workshops which offer emotional education as well as offering author visits to read her books and poetry to EYFS and KS1 children. Jessica develops free activity and teaching resource packs around emotions and well-being themes which are available from her website at www.jessicabowers.co.uk .
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