Reviews /

Be The Change: Be Calm

Authored by Marcus Sedgwick
Illustrated by Thomas Taylor
Published by Octopus Publishing Group

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‘The trouble with worry is that, in the modern world, it has got really out of control. It has become anxiety’

I’ll start by saying I usually give my review copies to one of the schools I teach in but I’ll be holding on to Be Calm and have highlighted many passages. I was quite puzzled to see it described as a ‘book for 9-12-year-olds on overcoming anxiety‘ as I read it as very much a book for everyone – young or old. The tone is pitch perfect and, although interactive with pages for the reader to fill in, each activity is purposeful and could lead to real insight. Without doubt an earnest topic but there are lighter moments:

‘Of course, your feelings will have an element of truth to them. You are probably unlikely to worry that giant killer octopuses are going to come marching down your road blasting everyone with ray-guns (if you are, trust me, we’re safe on this one). No, the dangerously powerful thing about anxieties is that they are usually based in truth, and on possible outcomes.’

Not much of a worrier myself, I was soon disconcerted to recognise myself as one who skips in the following extract:

‘The way evolution works is that the people who think through the danger of tigers will on the whole take steps to avoid being eaten, while the bunch who noisily skip through the forest without a care in the world will on the whole get eaten more often.’

However, I am a teacher and parent who has often been searching for the best response to others showing signs of anxiety and above all I will remember to say all feelings are valid:

‘You’re not being silly if you have anxious feelings – they are your mind and body trying to talk to you. So don’t be hard on yourself – the first thing to do is recognize and accept your fears for what they are.’

Whilst reading this book I learnt so much about anxiety, how it affects our thinking and our bodies. I have also become aware of lots of strategies, especially breathing exercises, for dealing with it too.  The beautiful illustrations by Thomas Taylor add interest and meaning in a light touch way and I appreciated the wide range of fonts used, which aid readability in my view. I read Be Calm very much as a self-help book but certain pages and activities could easily be used in a PSHE or well-being lesson. A copy belongs in every primary and secondary library and I’d recommend your own personal copy too.

*Since I was given this book to review, I have learnt of the sad and unexpected death of Marcus Sedgwick. A truly exceptional writer who will be greatly missed.