An Open Book


The other week a notification popped up on my WordPress account which announced I’d published my 100th blog! I was gobsmacked. I never thought I’d have so much to say. It felt good that I’d reached this milestone but it also poked at some mixed emotions I’d rather ignore.

Since I started writing for children so many people have mentioned that they too have a book inside them that they want to write. Some have been nudged into action; some have done nothing whilst others have built a list of excuses. At some point in my life I’ve done all three and continue to do so on some level but I’m convinced that all the emotions I encounter as I try to realise my ambitions are being felt everywhere in the world in some form or other. You may not have that hankering to be a writer but perhaps you’re setting up a new marshmallow making business or about to host the biggest beauty event you’ve ever attempted or dipping out of the corporate life to become a painter. Whatever it is for you, be prepared to be bombarded with emotions.

My writing journey is a continuous leap into the unknown full of surprises and disappointments, twists and turns. I’m already beginning to see that it’s not a simple question of getting from A to B, the path can branch off into many uncharted locations with little or no signposts to indicate which way is the right direction.

“Explore as many opportunities as you can” I hear the experts say.

“See where they take you” they encourage.

So when My Trending Stories contacted me with a blogging opportunity I decided to take the plunge and join this new community of wordaholics. It’s already exploding with mind-melting articles so I saw it as a chance for me to blog about the raw side of how it feels to try something new and follow your heart, the bits we don’t talk about so much, the feelings which go hand in hand with the bumpy path of turning aspiration into reality.

It’s not just a blog about my writing career, it’s a blog about human emotion, perseverance and anyone dealing with change and looking to try out something new. I’ve posted up a couple of blogs already so head over to An Open Book if you or anyone you know is in a similar position and looking for some ideas on how to magnify the good feelings and get beyond the bad feelings when trying to achieve their dream.

#BFCB #BooksForChildrenBlog


Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – Part 1: Emotions

There are certain aspects of life which we’re never taught about in school. It’s the things we tend to stumble our way through, across, over and under as we rack up the years of our lives. Some may say that’s how we grow and learn and gain wisdom but if only there had been a few more sign posts along the way when we were children, just to give us a hint and point us in the right direction, perhaps the path would have shown us a very different view. Today as the first part of a short series of blogs I’ll be writing, I’m reviewing the picture book called Emotionary: Say What You Feel which helps to explain the confusing, involuntary and intangible subject of emotions.

Understanding Emotions

Emotions are an essential part of what it means to be human. If listened to, emotions can make us aware of what we’re thinking and feeling about any given situation through the corresponding physical and mental reactions which manifest. Being aware of our emotions can give us the power to take control of our own lives rather than being at the mercy of seemingly involuntary reactions. Emotions can often appear irrational and illogical so understanding and accepting them can elude many of us for most of our lives. After all it’s only the reaction to the emotion which can be captured in a lab and put on display. The emotion itself is something far less tangible with its intuitive and instinctive state.

However, understanding how we feel is still only the start of the journey. What about expressing those feelings to others? How are we supposed to translate these illusive feelings into words? Although I’ve always been very aware of my own feelings for people and situations, throughout my life at times I’ve struggled to voice the feelings most important to me in ways in which others can clearly understand. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the years through tears, misunderstandings and heartache and not something which has come naturally. Any words expressed out loud suddenly seemed inadequate for the emotions I was feeling, like hollow voids preparing to be impregnated with misinterpretation but I’ve come to realise that a good writer or speaker is someone who can embody any amount of emotion into each empty sound or mechanically printed word. Perhaps that’s how we capture the magic of writing. I’m never quite sure if my fascination with words and writing was born in part from this desire and need to coherently express my feelings or whether I recognised that my love of words and writing was the tool I could use to express my feelings. I’m pretty sure the former had a strong influence but the lines are blurred.

Book Review on Emotionary: Say What You Feel by authors Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.


What’s it all about?

As the title suggests Emotionary is a dictionary of emotions and without a doubt it does what it says. A total of forty-two emotions to be exact are explained and illustrated in this beautiful book. The explanations include positive and negative emotions including fear, embarrassment, admiration and compassion for example with each emotion having been assigned a two page spread, mostly taken up with original illustrative interpretations which are complemented by the poignant text.

Emotionary helps children to recognise and understand their feelings by describing each emotion and providing the vocabulary to express those feelings to others. I wish I’d had a book like this as a child. Each emotion can be read randomly but when read from page to page the authors have also cleverly linked the emotions to show a cycle of feelings and how one can lead to another.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The text is by no means simple and the explanations are often profound as the book doesn’t hesitate to deal with some complex emotions. Whilst it captured my six year old’s attention and both boys loved making requests as to which emotions I read out first, my nine year old undoubtedly gained more from it due to his increased vocabulary. I ended up reading the whole book with him in one evening as he didn’t want to stop. As such my recommendation would be eight years upwards (and yes this can include adults) as this is not only when feelings become far more confusing for children as they begin to realise that everything is not as black and white as they may have once thought but they’re also at an age when they’re wanting to make sense of their emotions and are better equipped to comprehend the explanations. However that said, this book prompted many questions from both boys and both were keen to acknowledge which emotions they could relate to and when they had experienced them.


Every child’s shelf should hold this book so they can refer to it whenever they feel lost and need some reassurance that what they’re feeling is perfectly normal and understandable.

My 9 year olds verdict: This book has “very descriptive text and imaginative pictures. This book makes me feel pleasure.”

Author/s: Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.

Illustrators: Twenty two illustrators have collaborated to illustrate this book, depicting one or two emotions each so listing all of them is sadly not practical (view image for all attributions) but my personal favourites are Love by Maricel Rodriguez Clark, Relief and Embarrassment by Nella Gatica, Compassion by Nancy Brajer, Insecurity by Virginia Pinon, Acceptance by Josefina Wolf, Envy by Cynthia Orensztajn, Satisfaction by Tofi and Pleasure by Luciana Feito.

Publisher: Palalbras Aladas (2016)

Our Rating: 5 out of 5

CLICK TO BUY Emotionary: Say what you feel

Next week in PART 2 I will be reviewing a book to teach the art of visualisation to children.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 2: Visualisation.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 3: Positive Thinking.

Books About Things We’re Not Taught in School – PART 4: Overcoming Fears.


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Feeling the Love in Picture Books

Love Books

Image courtesy of ponsuwan at

My boys and I are back once again with our quick look, book reviews and ratings. As before, each score is rated out of 10, with 10 being the best and 1 the worst. The first of each scores is from my youngest boy.

As we approach Valentine’s Day what better way to celebrate than to learn about love. I have to admit it wasn’t a topic I had previously thought to read about to my boys at this age. I guess I was hoping my daily motherly actions would be a more than sufficient demonstration of love for now. Yet there are times in every parent’s life when we have to step back and realise we cannot teach our children everything and the full extent of love is one of these such things. Parental love is just one type of love so it’s both natural and inevitable that our children will have genuine feelings for others throughout their lives.  At times I think some adults can be very quick to dismiss a child’s feelings for others and consider them to be easily replaceable and somehow less important than their own “mature” feelings. We should never underestimate the intensity of a child’s feelings. A child’s love can be naïve but no matter how misguided it may be, it is no less real or genuine. How many times in your childhood were you told there are “plenty more fish in the sea” for example? This may well be and it may be appropriate to move on but it doesn’t deal with the feelings that remain. Most of us tumble our way through life trying to fathom out love with no instructions or map to guide us so rather than seeing love as a commodity that is easily replaced these books we have chosen aim to SHOW children HOW to love. Having feelings of love may come to us more easily than knowing how to deal with them, how to show our love and how to treat the people that we love. So it is never too early to start learning.

Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney (author) & Anita Jeram (illustrator) RATING: 1/10; 7/10.

Yes we started with a classic which has inspired many a declaration of love between parents and children all over the world. Has anyone reached further than the next galaxy and back? Beautiful book however rated down by my youngest who said it was only about how much they loved each other and nothing else!

Love Splat – Rob Scotton (author/illustrator) RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

Splat is an endearing character who tells a simple tale of love and rivalry showing how modesty and kindness triumphs. A rose-tinted view perhaps but a nice introduction to competition in love with a happy ending. Ideal for the age group.

Everyone Says I Love You – Beegee Tolpa (illustrator) & Michael Caputo (paper engineer). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

A lovely pop-up book with very little text. The pop-up pictures are iconic representations of six different countries (e.g. Eiffel Tower for France) and the text details the name of the country and how to say “I love you” in that country’s language (e.g. for France in French.) So simple yet this one little book still manages to teach language pronunciation, classic landmarks of each country and how love spans the world – all with very little writing!

Henry in Love Peter McCarty (author/illustrator). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

Say I love you with a blueberry muffin! A sweet story of how the little gestures can mean the most.

Never too Little to Love – Jeanne Willis (author) Jan Fearnley (illustrator) RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

It takes two to love in this very cute book which has been creatively designed. Its simplicity will appeal from a young age as the message is simply the title!

The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein (author/illustrator). RATING: 5/10; 8/10.

A well-known book about unconditional love which has been a controversial target of much debate over the years. Again not rated very highly by my youngest because he found it too sad and in this instance I have to agree. This book doesn’t leave me feeling all warm and cosy about love instead I’m left feeling it’s a thankless task. However the message is loud and clear that love is about giving not receiving and it takes two for love to thrive.

Love Monster – Rachel Bright (author/illustrator). RATING: 3/10; 9/10.

I can see a theme appearing with my youngest who rates any book down if something sad or scary happens. To him if something goes wrong it’s not good regardless of the outcome! This book portrays a valid message of not to look too hard for love, sometimes you may get it wrong but if you be yourself, it may find you. I like this book as it is more realistic than most but very gently approaches the possibility of disappointment on the road to love. It is an encouraging story of never giving up and accepting who you are.

Love is You and MeMonica Sheehan (author/illustrator). RATING: 10/10; 10/10.

An adorable depiction of all the good feelings love brings to a partnership. This could mean a parent, a friend or a pet. No matter who it is this book revels in the support, the sharing, the giving and the dependency that love initiates. Beautifully illustrated.

I Love You Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt (author) & Cyd Moore (illustrator). RATING: 5/10; 5/10.

A gentle, funny way of describing unconditional love and finding the good in people. Not much to the story line but a delight to read none the less.

A Kissing Hand – Audrey Penn (author) & Ruth E. Harper/Nancy M. Leak (illustrators). RATING: 10/10; 9/10.

A truly heart warming story of a parent making her child feel safe, secure and loved at all times, even when she is not present. A fantastic story which could help children build the courage and confidence they need for independence.

I hope you have loved our selection!

Where obtained: public or personal library.

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