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My elephant is blue - Book Review

My elephant is blue: A book about big, heavy feelings  

Szymanik, M., & Unka, V. (2021). Penguin Group (NZ).

My Elephant is Blue is an empathetic, heart-warming story written to help tamariki cope with heavy feelings. It is about a child who feels they are carrying a heavy weight on their chest - represented by an elephant. They wonder what they can do to shift this weight and seek advice from their whānau who try to help.

This story is a great way to help children understand their emotions and talk about their feelings, or to understand how someone else may be feeling. It encourages tamariki to recognise that these feelings are universal, they are not alone in their feelings, and there are little things they can do to help themselves when they are ready. It gives some useful strategies to help –practical, small steps such as putting two feet on the ground, going for a walk, spending time with family, feeling nature around you.

The book also acknowledges that these feelings may not go away but you can live with them. Itis okay that these feelings are part of who you are, but there are things that you can do to move forward. We see this as the elephant evolves from sitting on the character’s chest to walking beside her and in the elephant's changing colour from blue to pink or yellow when things feel a little lighter.

My Elephant is Blue is a New Zealand-produced picture book that beautifully articulates and illustrates the physical and emotional sensations of sadness, anxiety and depression. It is ideal for tamariki at preschool or primary school.

Reviewed by Charmaine Denney, teacher and mum to two boys.  

Rāhina / Monday

Reconnect with yourself

Connecting with yourself is a skill. To start the week, begin by taking a moment to check in with yourself, acknowledge how you’re feeling and how the last few years of turbulence affected you and your connection with others and the world around you. This is a good time to think about the people you have lost contact with who you might want to reach out to, or the special places you haven’t visited in a while, and set some whāinga/goals for the week ahead.

At the end of the week, you can reflect on how you felt at the start and how reconnecting with the people and places that are special to you has lifted you up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with yourself:

Rātū/ Tuesday

Reconnect with a friend or loved one

We know life can get busy, but feeling connected to the people that are important to us can make a big difference to our mental health. Connection brings purpose and belonging to our lives and makes us feel happier and more secure. Today is about reconnecting with the people in our lives – it could be someone special who you have lost touch with or just wish you caught up with more often.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a friend or loved one:

Rāapa / Wednesday

Reconnect with a special place

The places and spaces we spend our time in have a huge impact on how we feel. Most of us have places we can go that calm, inspire or uplift us. Today, make time to go to a place that is special to you and take notice of how you feel when you are there. For some of us, the special place that comes to mind might be out of reach - perhaps it’s overseas, or too far away to get to. Even if we can’t get there right now, there are ways that we can reconnect with the places that lift us up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a special place:

Rāpare / Thursday

Reconnect with your community.

Today is about reconnecting with your hapori whānui/wider community. It’s the perfect time to sign up to be a volunteer or join a local community group, but it could also be as simple as making the effort to reconnect with the people you interact with every day. Today is all about savouring the little hononga/connections that make us human.

A few ideas for reconnecting with your community:

Rāmere / Friday

Reconnect with nature

To round out the week, we’re asking you to reconnect with the beautiful taonga that is te taiao/the natural environment. Studies show exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, it contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. All the more reason to spend at least a small moment today outside - breathing in some fresh air and noticing the world around you.

A few ideas for reconnecting with nature: