Books help kids explore feelings

Bonnie
Bonnie Belec
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Lindsay had rehearsal recently for her first ballet recital at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre. When we were leaving at the bottom of the stairs on the way out of the centre to the parking lot - and by we I mean the three of us - we noticed a room filled with screaming children and adults dressed liked the crazy hunter from the movie "Jumanji."

Of course, Lindsay and Liam begged to go inside to see what the commotion was about, while I wanted to go home to cook supper and get ready for work.

Lindsay had rehearsal recently for her first ballet recital at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre. When we were leaving at the bottom of the stairs on the way out of the centre to the parking lot - and by we I mean the three of us - we noticed a room filled with screaming children and adults dressed liked the crazy hunter from the movie "Jumanji."

Of course, Lindsay and Liam begged to go inside to see what the commotion was about, while I wanted to go home to cook supper and get ready for work.

So I did what any overtired, overworked, underpaid mother would do - I said, "OK, we'll go inside, but only for five minutes."

I tried to negotiate with little success.

Inside, it was total chaos. In one corner children were playing an animal card game and in another room there was a young man struggling to get a racquet down over his hips, while juggling.

What we had happened upon was the A.C. Hunter Children's Library Destination Jungle - which explains the camouflage and wild animal sounds and pictures throughout the room.

Destination Jungle is the kickoff for the TD 2010 summer reading club which aspires to keep children's brains stimulated throughout the summer by involving them in different programs at the library - and it's free.

Our lives will never be the same as a result of that fateful day, because it was Lindsay's and Liam's first visit to a library and my first visit since a time when the most common activity in a library was the librarian shushing us.

So now the children are members of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, with their own library cards with their names on the back, which they proudly brandish like credit cards, and which they used to check out their first books.

Funny enough, both books have to do with feelings.

Colourful illustrations

"Grumpy Bird," by Jeremy Tankard, is a riot. The illustrations aren't fancy, but they're colourful and and childlike.

Obviously, it's about a bird whose name is Bird. So this day Bird wakes up and he's grumpy - you can tell by his furrowed brow. He is too grumpy to eat, play or even fly. "Looks like I'm walking today," Bird concludes.

The premise of the story is that as he goes about his morning, he encounters several of his animal friends who are all intrigued by the fact that Bird is walking instead of flying. He's quite sarcastic as he continues his journey and some of his friends point out that he's using his feet and not his wings.

By the third animal-friend inquiry about his decision to walk, Bird is pretty grumpy. Beaver asks him what he is doing.

"Let me give you a hint," says Bird. "You do it by placing one foot in front of the other."

Beaver says, "Walking. I love walking."

As Bird proceeds, he begins to realize he's been joined on his walk by five of his dear friends and he also realizes that whatever he does his friends will copy.

This book is brilliant. We love it; you can use different voices for the animals, copy Bird's moves as you're reading it - it's just so much fun.

It also teaches children that there's no need to be grumpy when you have friends who want to play with you.

Fear of unknown

"Scaredy Squirrel" by Melanie Watt is about a little squirrel who never leaves his nut tree and has a major fear of the unknown - the unknown being the forest where he lives (as pointed out by a big red arrow in the book). His fears are a little over the top, like green martians, killer bees, germs and sharks.

Watt simply weighs the pros and cons of never leaving the tree versus leaving the tree, and chronicles his daily, same-old routine, which he is growing tired of.

If being scared wasn't enough, Scaredy Squirrel has an emergency kit packed just in case he's ever forced to leave his tree. He's prepared and has a top secret exit plan to boot.

One day, Scaredy is caught offguard by a "killer bee" who enters his treehouse. Scaredy panics, knocks the emergency kit out the window and is beside himself with fear. But he reacts and learns something really wonderful about himself.

Fear is a tough thing to overcome with children, but this book helps address some of the issues and creates an opportunity to at least talk about it. It's a really cute book to initiate chatter with your little ones.

For those who are interested, Destination Jungle at the A.C. Hunter Library began June 22 and appears to run until the end of August.

There are several programs, events and activities throughout the summer. Most of them don't require registration, but there are some that do. For more information, visit www.nlpl.ca.

Bonnie Belec is a Telegram desk editor and the mother of five-year-old twins, Lindsay and Liam. She can be reached at bbelec@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, A.C. Hunter Library

Geographic location: St. John's, A.C. Hunter Children

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