Book Review: Small Things by Mel Tregonning

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“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

Paulo Coelho, Manuscrito encontrado em Accra

(Trigger Warning: Mental Health, Anxiety, Depression, Suicide)

So I am usually not someone who tends to read picture books. While I am very visual, I also like reading books that are language-based as I personally enjoy them a lot. However, my experience working with neuro-diverse individuals got me thinking about their experience of consuming content. Not everyone is verbal and not everyone enjoys listening to audio-books. What are their options then? Also, what happens to people who don’t have the energy to read. Reading can be exhausting, so is communicating. What if we had a solution to this problem?

My online search led us to this book about anxiety and little did I know that it would be a picture book and a beautiful one at that. The book was authored by Mel Tregonning in the final year of her life. You can find out more about her here. When I browsed through the author’s website I realized that she had her own personal struggles with mental health and the book published by her family after losing her. I value this book a lot and I think it is a wonderful picture book for any child or their caregiver to learn more about their experience with mental illness.

Here are some of my favourite things about this book

  • I might have said this before, and I will say this again. We need to hear directly from individuals who have experienced mental health illness and hear them voice their stories more so than that of the experts. I appreciate narratives from someone with a lived experience as they are easy to relate. (A lot of mental health professionals have mental health struggles and they openly talk about it. More about that later).
  • This book is completely visual!! Not a single word is included in it.
  • Can you imagine being able to relate without hearing or uttering a single word? I believe this can be such an easy and a powerful way to start communication about mental health struggles without the overwhelming need for us to find the right words to express our experiences.
  • One of the struggles with explaining mental health problems is that people cannot understand what they don’t see. And this book helps us with just that- it helps us see what anxiety looks like and feels like to the person experiencing it.
  • I do not want to give away the plot therefore I am holding back on sharing the themes of the books. What I definitely want to share is that the book beautifully depicts what ‘the child is feeling on the inside’ on the outside and how his anxiety manifests itself in the different aspects of the daily life. (There are so many wonderful things I would like to say but I really don’t want to cloud your interpretation with mine.)

I think this is a great read for

  • Parents, who have young children who struggle with anxiety or other mental health issues. This might be a very useful resource for parents of children who are non-verbal or struggle with verbal comprehension.
  • Children, especially children who do not know how to communicate the way they feel. A picture book could be a great start for them to understand their own experience, be able to pinpoint parts or whole of their experience without scrambling for the right words to narrate their experience.
  • Educators & Librarians who wish to include mental health literacy as a part of their curriculum and/or programs and want to find ways to address every child in the class.
  • Mental health professionals who work with children can also include this in their toolbox along with other sensory items to help children comprehend and articulate their experiences. I am aware of many children who are cannot be assessed due to lack of participation on their end and I wonder if books such as these could be a way to bridge the gap? Cause can a child communicate what they are thinking or feeling if they do not understand or know how to verbalize it or are nonverbal to begin with?

Things to consider when you read this book

  • I am trying to be mindful of diverse learners here and I think for individuals who struggle with nonverbal comprehension or have difficulty comprehending abstract ideas this may not be the right resource.
  • Since it is completely nonverbal, everyone would have their own interpretations of it. When I read it, my interpretation was very far from those that other people have expressed (I read a lot of reviews on Goodreads). So if you are using this to support someone, be open to their interpretation of it.
  • I am not recommending this book as a miraculous solution to someone who is nonverbal or not communicating their anxious thoughts. There really need not be an outcome that we can ‘see’ or ‘hear’. If it helps a parent understand their child’s experience, if a child feels understood, or if any reader just gets a better insight into an individual’s experience of anxiety, it is worth it.

Have you had a chance to read this book? I would love to know what your thoughts are! If you do read the book after reading the review, let me know if this was helpful.

Please note that the purpose of this article is to simply share information and not replace psychotherapy or other health interventions. If you are experiencing significant distress and it is an emergency, call 911. For community resources click here.

I try my best to learn new skills and update myself with the latest developments in the field, but I definitely do not know it all. I would love to learn what you think about my content and if you have any concerns. Feel free to write to me if you wish to start a dialogue about a certain topic.

I provide individual psychotherapy to youth and adults for a variety of mental health issues, create and facilitate workshops, and consult. To learn more, book a free 30-minute consultation with me, click here

Published by Krishna Vora

Krishna has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and is a Registered Psychotherapist with over 8 years of work experience in the field of Mental Health and Education, both in India and Canada. As a therapist, she believes in providing a safe space for clients to deal with their emotions, behavior, and thoughts; at the same time actively working on learning and practicing relevant skills to improve adjustment and life satisfaction. She has extensive work experience with adults with depression, anxiety, stress, and adjustment issues. Her treatment modalities include CBT and SFBT combined with elements of DBT, Psycho-education and Art. She works from a strength-based, the anti-oppressive approach enables the client to collaborate and achieve their full potential through the process of psychotherapy. During the course of her career, she has worked with children with diverse learning needs such as learning disabilities, Autism, ADHD, Gifted and Twice Exceptionality, and developed content for Teacher Training programs, Summer Camps and After School Groups for Gifted Children. Krishna believes in raising standards of achievement for her students by providing customized learning solutions in a safe and nurturing environment. Currently, she is working as a Middle School Teacher at The Study Academy. She hopes to continue working with individuals of all ages to achieve social, emotional and academic growth by drawing from best practices across different professions. Through this blog, she hopes to introduce research and strategies to help individuals improve their mental health and help their loved ones struggling with mental health concerns. *Please note that this is not intended to replace therapy or any other kind of professional help. I highly recommend you see your family doctor or physician for appropriate referrals if need be. For therapy in and around Toronto, send me a quick email for inquiries.

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