Exciting news at Big Issues for Little People HQ – Ivy and the Mole is out for pre-order now. Here’s a little run down of what you can expect from the second instalment of Ivy’s adventures for your info:
What is Ivy and the Mole about?
Ivy makes a down on his luck companion as she ventures into the Wildest Wood to find ‘Pond Number One’ and together the pair end up discovering as much about their own sense of self as they do about the magical landscape that surrounds them.
Ivy and the Mole takes a beautifully illustrated look at the journey we all take as human beings towards finding and learning to love our true selves – and how identifying that one-off superpower that lies inside each one of us is the key to taking us there.
What and who is it for?
My aim with all of the children’s books I have written (this is the second I will have published in the series) is to help little people make sense of the world’s biggest issues in an honest yet child-friendly way.
Ivy And The Mole is written to help children understand that just as we are all different in life, so we all have our individual strengths. The key to contentment is to recognise and play to these strengths wherever we can. It has always been my aim to be honest with my own two girls, even when they ask me big questions.
This book is an extension of that, and takes a child-friendly look at how our self-esteem can suffer when we view ourselves in the context of the outside world, as opposed to focusing on the person within.
Where can I buy it?
It was Mum’s birthday this week. She would have been 73, which doesn’t feel like a massive ask, but there you go. Anyway, it got me thinking about ‘special days’ in life. All my life I have been aiming to achieve something ‘special’ – whether that’s in the way we celebrated our wedding, the songs I’ve written and sung publicly, or indeed, the book (s) that I’ve published.
It is always with the view to creating that ‘special’ experience for the guests or the listeners, or the readers involved. I suppose that’s what being creative and making art is really. Nobody paints a picture with a view to it being average do they? So, when the second birthday we’ve spent without Mum came around I will admit to feeling a bit hacked off about it – not through pity for ourselves, but because it felt like a good excuse for me to publicly remember her. And, really, that sucks. Just because it’s a ‘special’ occasion doesn’t mean I suddenly thought about her for the first time in the last two years. I might have gone two minutes without thinking about her if I’m lucky (or unlucky depending on what frame of mind I’m in).
And just because we liked to celebrate our birthdays together when she was alive as ‘special’ days, it doesn’t mean these were the only exceptional times that we were fortunate enough to spend together. It got me thinking, really, that a lot of us tend to think about or aim generally for the next ‘special event’ in our lives – when we get to go out at the weekend, when we get to go on holiday with the girls (me in June!), when we get to take the kids to Legoland (it was awesome tbf). And yet the older I get, the more I realise that every day is special, or can be, in its own way.
I am fortunate enough to share special moments with my children if not every day, then most in some way or another. A quiet night in on the sofa with a bottle of wine might end up being special if it leads to a meaningful conversation with my other half about something which makes us laugh, or think more deeply about, or discover something about each other that we didn’t know before (which still happens even after almost two decades together).
I used to think that to feel or be special you had to do something ‘big’ in life, and the older I get the more I realise that it’s the little things which are the most special of all. The people that have known you and loved you, and supported you, for the longest time. The time we spend together on a daily, weekly or annual basis as friends and family, they feel more and more special as life goes on. It also led me to this poem, which I jotted down while I was watching the final instalment of Derry Girls (love you mum!).
It doesn’t take a special day to make us wonder
What we might have done
Or, where we might have gone
Anniversaries are not required
We don’t need a prompt
It’s not like we can just bring them back
Those special days
The ones that were yours too
But we can still, and always will,
Remember to celebrate you
I’ve teamed up with the folk at Untangle Grief to run a virtual session looking at what’s involved in moving through grief and past bereavement as a family with young children. It takes place on April 5th at 7pm and will work through the various challenges that as parents we can expect to experience with our children throughout the bereavement process – funerals, school, visitors and more.
Untangle Grief is a great little online platform which basically takes all the faff and guff around bereavement away, offering guides, forums and other practical bits and pieces of info that are all handily organised into sections depending on your stage of bereavement, and the issue at hand. It’s a kind of ‘one stop shop’ of bereavement info that anyone can access free of charge and find help with issues including probate, counselling, funerals, finances, and a whole lot more. It’s also a place for people to share their own stories of loss, and for others to hear them in return, which is where I come in I suppose.
To be sharing in my experiences for the potential benefit of others is always a welcome opportunity, and is really what a lot of the Ivy journey so far has been about really. So far, however, I’ve not found the actual ‘speaking’ aspect that appealing to be honest, even though I should be doing far, far more of it! It’s not because I don’t enjoy hearing from others and what their experiences have been, I’m just not as good with words that come out of my mouth as I am when they’re written down!
I wonder if all writers find this bit hard – when you’re under pressure not to write (although I really need to be doing more of that too), but to get out there and shout about what it is that you have written, and where it comes from, and what it means to the world that it is in? I know I do, even though I used to perform regularly as a singer/songwriter in my younger years. I don’t know why these kinds of events, and getting my schools sessions out there, have become such a big thing in my head, but they have.
I’ve also made contact with my first school about going into see the children there soon too, so I’m getting there but I don’t think it will ever be my favourite bit of being an author. What I do love though, is sitting here, putting my thoughts and feelings down on the page, and thinking about what I might like to write about next. I’ve also had a few conversations around this recently, too, however, and hoping to bring you more news on more books soon too.
I constantly feel like I could and should be doing more to develop the Big Issues concept, but some days, I just want to sit with my kids and enjoy their little faces and soak up there personalities. Sometimes I just want to read what everyone else has been writing.
But, I am still moving – at what speed I should be I know not – and for now, that’s all I can do, and all that matters. I hope you manage to appreciate that element of life too in this world of madness.
If you want to join in the virtual session on Tuesday, you can book your space for free here: https://untanglegrief.com/event/navigating-bereavement-and-grief-as-a-family/
Ivy And The Rock Book By Jess Childs Review
This book melted my heart for so many reasons. The author of this lovely book is Jess Childs and has been brilliantly illustrated by Heather May Williams who wrote the story for her 2 children to help them understand why her own Dad is no longer with them and how her Dad was her rock. The story and illustrations are both lovingly heartfelt and written in such a beautiful and simple way; that helps and covers the subjects of love and the loss when loosing someone. So much so, that it is much more comforting to young children. It reaches out and really does touch your heart, along with your mind and soul. Even if your child has not experienced the loss of a loved one as yet, this is a great story to read as it will help them to understand and even talk about.
My granddaughter has recently lost her great nanna on her mums side and whilst she’s 7.5 years old, she has struggled to understand why someone she loves so much is no longer around. Since her loss, she has been very confused and everyone around her has been there for her, no matter how many questions she has asked. After reading this book, she now understands her thoughts and feelings so much more now and talks about her great Nanna in such a different way. The book has helped her parents and myself to explain her loss in a way we never thought of.
It is about a beautiful little girl named Ivy Jones who walks the path on a journey of adventure and most importantly, self discovery. With the security from a rock she adores and loves so much, it gives her a lot of security, safety, trust and confidence.
Ivy has gorgeous blonde hair, dressed in a blue and white polka dot top, and a pink dress, along with brown bootie shoes. She has gorgeous brown eyes, rosy red cheeks, a really cute button nose and her hair has a cute bun on the top of her head which is tied up in a bobble with green leaves and berries.
The rock is beautifully illustrated with so many dazzling colours such as yellow, teal, purple and pink. The way it is drawn even looks like it is sparkling. Such lovely art work.
The story also makes reference and illustrates flowers such as pansies, snowdrops, hollyhocks, hibiscus and roses. These played a very important part of the story for my granddaughter as now, when out walking, she says to me ‘look Nana, flowers, flowers like Ivy has and their roots will keep growing and look beautiful, just like great Nanna’. This melted my heart and naturally made me cry. I was so proud and uplifted by her own take on her loss and how she has taken the story of Ivy and the rock and made it a positive one. She likes to draw the rock and calls it ‘great Nanna’s heart’. She even has her own drawing of it up on her bedroom wall and every day she says ‘good morning/good night great Nanna, I love you so much and I will always love you’. Just some of the words she has taken from the story and uses herself.
I would absolutely and most definitely recommend this book for all the reasons I have covered above.
You can see the full review live here: https://whatsgoodtodo.com/ivy-and-the-rock-book-by-jess-childs-review/#
A really amazing line up here of children’s picture books to help little people deal with bereavement and grief in a variety of scenarios. Ivy is massively privileged to be included in this incredible line up from bookswithbaby.com.
Julia Donaldson’s ‘Paper Dolls’, Michael Rosen’s ‘Sad Book’ and Judith Kerr’s ‘Goodbye Mog’ take their place alongside lesser known titles broaching the subject of death with little ones, including ‘Ivy and the Rock’.
For Ivy’s part, the reviewer surmises that: “A parent is like a rock, giving a child solid support as they grow and a reliable place to return to. But losing them is a sad inevitability of life. This is the experience of Ivy Jones, whose colourful stone is her companion in the Wildest Wood, helping her to explore the flowers and venture further afield.
So what do you do when your rock is no longer there? The moral of this gentle rhyming book is that beneath the rock are the roots of everything you are and the love that linked you.”
You can see the full review and other suggestions for books which might be helpful to you, or someone you know with little ones who are grieving, here: https://bookswithbaby.com/2021/11/16/picture-books-about-grief-and-death/
I went back to my regular exercise class of choice for the first time in almost two years this weekend. It’s called Poundfit and can best be described as over enthusiastically smacking the floor a lot with fancy drumsticks whilst listening to music. It’s great for burning fat, toning your muscles and releasing all those feelings brought about by the impending/repeated loss in life of people that you really love.
In my pre pandemic days, Poundfit was my twice weekly church of choice when it came to letting my emotions out and welcoming my true self back in. Every Sunday and Thursday, as I steadily beat the fear, sorrow and anger out of me, I would feel the endorphins come and take their place, and with them my sanity return too.
Sometimes the music would empower me to approach my life challenges akin to some kind of Amazonian warrior woman, and other times I would have to fight back the tears as I thought about the people we had lost, or how on earth it would ever be possible to live without the ones I was preparing to lose.
So, when I found myself back in that same hall this week, staring at the same wall, beating out that same rhythm, I found myself holding back the tears again. Tears for the outrageous situations we had found ourselves in and for the heartache we had experienced as a family in the time I had been parted from that wall. Tears for how life can be all the same matter of routine, and yet so different in the space of a breath it feels.
In a couple of weeks’ time, we will have spent an entire year trying to live the same old life, carry out the work we have always been assigned to do, and complete the same daily chores we have always had to, but as significantly different people.
It struck me as I pounded out to my favourite wind down track – ‘Into The Wild’ by LP – that routine beyond trauma has the power to both ground you when you need it the most and, at times, to make you want to scream as recklessly as is humanly possible. It brings with it the realisation that life goes on, whether we like it or not.
Some days the ‘routine’ can be hugely welcome and, on others, you wonder how on earth it is even possible that you could still be standing there, in the same old exercise class, beating out the same old rhythms and staring at the same old wall, when so much has gone between.
It has the power to make you feel like a fraud even for trying to live some kind of normal life when you know that suffering and sadness in the world is always only ever a heartbeat away.
Into The Wild is a great song if you haven’t heard it. In many ways, I can’t help but feel like living a parentless life at a relatively young age is what LP is singing about. My favourite lines:
Are we so lost in the dark of our hearts
That there’s no light of day?
How do we not fade away?
Into the wild