Just Imagine

Your Mind is Like the Sky

Authored by Bronwen Ballard
Illustrated by Laura Carlin
Published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books

This is a very timely book, given that children’s mental well-being is currently high on the list of topics exercising the minds of parents and educators.

Laura Carlin needs no introduction to picturebook enthusiasts, and her distinctive illustration style makes this informative book a visual delight. Ballard’s text has a calm and reassuring tone. She gently explains to her young readers that it is as natural to feel sad sometimes as it is to feel happy. Carlin illustrates this wonderfully. The protagonist is always in full colour, while in the background other people are sometimes mere outlines. One of these people is a mother figure – always there but not dominant. A black dog features in most of the openings too. This could perhaps be a metaphor for childhood depression.

The double page spreads show us the ordinary busyness of a child’s life. Significantly, one black and grey spread depicts how overwhelming a very busy life can be too. Sports, an electric pylon, friends, cooking, music, nature, clothes, spectacle, dishes, clocks, hairdressers, babies, even a Henry Hoover, vie for attention and can perhaps lead to overload and distress.  However, Ballard’s text reassures children that a variety of ‘thoughts come and go for all of us all the time’ and provides some very practical ways for dealing with negative thoughts. There are tips and resources for parents or teachers at the back of the book.

There is no hint of trivialisation or patronising tone here – no sugar-coated aphorisms. Ballard’s background in philosophy and psychology ensures that this serious topic is given due respect. Carlin’s pastel illustrations make it highly engaging and accessible.