Reviews /

What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking

Authored by Tina Oziewicz
Illustrated by Aleksandra Zajac
Published by Pushkin Press

This is the first of Tina Oziewicz’s books to be translated into English and the quality of the text alongside Aleksandra Zajac’s stunning illustrations, shows us something of what those of us without access to the Polish children’s literature market have been missing until now

What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking is a book that just keeps giving. I’ve purposely left it sitting on the kitchen table for few weeks now, and when someone, anyone, in fact pops in for a coffee, they can’t help but open it – it is aesthetically very appealing after all – especially in hardback. I’ve noticed, though, that while visitors start by flicking through, they soon become absorbed as they linger over specific pages. It’s a book which appeals to every reader and each reader, from child, to headteacher, to clinical psychologist (who have all been lost to it) lingers over a ‘feeling’ that seems to speak to them.

The book can be opened and enjoyed on any page, not uncoincidentally (as often the best picture books are thoughtfully poetic) like a collection of poetry. Each feeling sits relatively independently, yet the animals/monsters/creatures (they may be tricky to define though they are all cute) are metaphorically tied together through being feelings with shared colour schemes and illustrative styles. Feelings are importantly not all good or bad; Joy for example ‘bounces on a trampoline’ while Calm ‘strokes a dog’ and, Worry ‘juggles’. I can imagine almost every spread being turned into a beautiful poster, or mantra for the classroom, or indeed home or doctor’s waiting room wall. Personally, for my wall I would choose ‘Kindness calms storms’ as the accompanying illustration pictures a creature sheltering under an umbrella while handing out drinks from his/her own flask to the smaller creatures who have gathered around.

This book is a must have for every school and classroom. It should follow the child (and indeed teaching staff!) through their primary years simply because it will never grow old. It embodies a wealth of potential material for PHSE but also for literacy more generally. Every feeling can be talked about. For each one I wondered what their story was, what made them angry or envious, what ignited their curiosity? I’m sure readers will enjoy telling or writing their stories but more than that this book offers a space to discuss a time when readers also perhaps felt some of these feelings, and to remind us all that these feelings are a normal part of life’s ups and downs.