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Book review: ‘Being me – poems about thoughts, worries and feelings’

‘Being me’ is a collection of poems for children and young people and so we hand the initial reviews over to two young people, before hearing from Laura, one of the authors of the anthology.

Evelyn – aged 7

I thought it was funny! Also it could help you if you have any worries about lots of different things…It’s like you are talking to a person about things that you worry about.

I liked the shape poems. I really liked ‘The Thinking Tree’ poem – when it said “I’m stuck and I need a wee” that really made me laugh.

Maisie – aged 8

There are a variety of poems that ignite different feelings; some made me feel sad and others made me feel happy.

I really liked the poems that empower and they made me think differently; I especially liked the poem called “chatting to my inner critic” as it made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted and helped me to stop thinking “I can’t”. I especially liked the way the words “you can’t” got smaller and smaller as it showed how these thoughts can get smaller and smaller and makes me think I could do anything.

Some of my other favourite poems were the ones in different shapes as they were presented in a creative way; the shapes of the topic they were talking about. These shape poems made the book more interesting as they draw you into the words.

I would definitely recommend this book for 8 year olds but maybe they should read it with mommy because some of the poems are quite sad.

Josh – age 11

I thought the book looked nice because of all the different people on the front

Some of the poems reminded me of me…like the poem ‘chatting to my inner critic’ – it was like talking to someone about my feelings and I kinda understood what they were talking about.

Other kids should probably get it because it’s good to read and talk about your feelings. It was really nice because I don’t really like talking about my feelings so…it was nice to release them when reading. Release I mean…I was kinda in their world and that was fun.

Maybe a thing to change would be maybe make the writing a bit bigger so smaller kids can read it, and maybe some smaller word poems and some longer word poems.

A word from Laura Mucha, one of the authors

When I was hit by a car aged 29 I started reading and writing poetry in the middle of the night to process what was going on. 

I wondered if I was alone in finding poetry helpful. I’m not. Poetry has been found to promote self-acceptance, self-awareness, empathy and catharsis among caregivers, as well as a reducing secondary PTSD symptoms among counselors.

There’s something uniquely powerful about poems – their restraints can help contain topics that might otherwise be too scary or sad to discuss, and the careful use of language can act as a code that allows us to tap into what’s really going on. 

That tapping-in may be more important now than ever – particularly for young people. Recent research by Black Dog found 75% of teens believe their mental health is worse thanks to Covid. Jennie Hudson explains, “All of the factors that we know contribute to children’s poor mental health have been exacerbated by COVID: an increase in poverty, parent mental health problems, overcrowding and/or violence at home, parental substance abuse, and social isolation.”

Before Covid hit, Liz, Matt and I began co-writing a poetry collection specifically aimed at opening up conversations about mental health and wellbeing with young people. This involved writing about racism, death, bullying, parental sickness, divorce, re-marriage, and abuse. 

We didn’t want to shy away from talking about big, sticky topics, but also wanted there to be light and hope running through – so there are poems about nature, meditation and friendship too. 

We compiled the topics we wanted to cover, before discussing our list with Dr Karen Goodall, Chartered Psychologist and Programme Director of the MSc Mental Health in Children and Young People at Edinburgh University. As well as making sure we had covered the key topics, she made sure each poem was as sensitive as it could be and wrote a brilliant endnote.  

We each had very different approaches to writing – Liz reflected heavily on her own upbringing, Matt drew on his career as a teacher, and I drew heavily from my studies and research. I’ve spent a decade researching a book about love for adults and was full of thoughts about the impact of divorce, bereavement, infidelity and remarriage on children.

Research suggests that adults are often scared to tell young people the truth when they or the people they love are unwell or dying. The danger in not being honest is that children’s imaginations can concoct scenarios far worse than the truth. My aim in writing was to give a voice to children’s experiences based on research findings in the hope of opening up essential conversations with teachers, psychologists, parents and caregivers. 

I really hope our little word packages help provide a way in for children and young people to explore, process and contain whatever they find difficult. I hope they also let students know they are not alone as well as giving them a window into what might be going on for others. In the face of this global pandemic, we need that now more than ever. 


‘Being me’ is available at all major bookshops, including Bookshop, which financially supports local independent sellers


References

World Health Organisation, Health Evidence Network Synthesis Report 67, What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review

Personal correspondence with Jennie Hudson of Black Dog Australia.



About Maisie

Maisie is 8 years old and loves reading, swimming, dancing and playing tennis.

View all posts by Maisie

About Josh

Josh is 11 and really likes rugby

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About Laura Mucha

Laura changed careers from law to becoming an author and poet. She has won two international prizes for her children's poetry. Dear Ugly Sisters is her first solo collection, and she is also one of the three contributors to Being Me (Otter-Barry Books, 2021).

View all posts by Laura Mucha

About Evelyn

Evelyn is 7 years old and loves everything horse related and her friends

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