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Your Mind Is Like the Sky by Bronwen Ballard and Laura Carlin

Your mind is like the sky.

Sometimes it’s clear and blue.

Sometimes it’s fizzy and stormy and black and crackly.

And so begins Bronwen Ballard’s narrative exploration of feelings: the explicable and the inexplicable; the feelings we can talk about and those that remain unspoken.

Your Mind is Like the Sky treats children’s everyday worries seriously; the tone is unpatronizing and unsentimental. The poetic text avoids mention of specific worries and is consequently universal and provides space for individual response. Bronwen Ballard’s professional understanding informs this reassuring text which acknowledges the child’s worries and negative feelings, then turns to practical ways to encourage healthy thinking habits.

Carlin’s illustrations introduce character into the narrative, which makes what could have been an abstract subject, approachable. She is a keen observer of body language; a subtle tilt of the head and hint of hunched shoulders and we immediately know what the young girl is feeling. She is a solid but smudgy figure, depicted against a background of scratchy outline figures and objects. There is much to observe in the details, some may resonate with the reader as representative of their own fears; a toilet monster, a large spider, children at a birthday party. But to others the same images may be innocuous: one person’s worry can be another person’s pleasure.

Books about mindfulness can be twee or tend towards navel gazing, but in the safe hands of Ballard and Carlin, we have a book that rings true: it is important to recognise the dark in order to catch the light.

About this month's reviewer

Nikki Gamble is Director of Just Imagine, author of Exploring Children's Literature (4th edit. June 2019) and Co-author of Guiding Readers: Layers of Meaning with Wayne Tenent, David Reedy and Angela Hobsbaum. @nikkigamble