Category: Children’s Literature

Teenager writes children’s book about mental health after battle with anorexia


Emily Palmer, 19, with her children’s book Scrambled Heads (Picture: Emily Palmer)

Catherine Phillips writes:

A teenager was inspired to write a book explaining mental health issues to children after her own battles with Anorexia Nervosa and anxiety.

Emily Palmer said her experience began gradually from the age of 11 or 12 from a determination for good grades at school and eventually manifested itself into an eating disorder.

But, while children with physical injuries may be able to pick up a children’s book to help them understand an injury or what might happen at hospital, she noticed the same books were seemingly unavailable for children with mental health issues.

It inspired her to write Scrambled Heads, a book aimed at primary school children which explains what mental health is, what it might feel like and how to get help.

Emily has been amazed by the feedback; the book has won praise from parents and school teachers, reached number one in the young adult general health section on a couple of occasions and sold over 500 copies by September 2016.

‘Having battled with anxiety and Anorexia Nervosa, I wanted to create a tool that could help children have a better understanding of mental health so that they would be less afraid to get help sooner.

Children’s books were available for children to learn about what might happen if they needed to visit the hospital for a physical health problem, but there was no parallel for mental health.

‘Looking back I realised that I did not learn about mental health until after I started struggling.

‘When you go through something that you have not even heard, it makes it a lot more difficult to understand what is going wrong, let alone know how to start tackling it.’




Cancer, a midlife career change and an acclaimed children’s book: Ellington author finds success with ‘Ruby in the Sky’

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo of Ellington wrote a children’s book titled “Ruby in the Sky,” about a girl whose life has been turned upside down. (Patrick Raycraft / The Hartford Courant)

Susan Dunne writes:

Until two years ago, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo made her living as a public defender, taking on cases in Rockville and other superior courts for defendants without resources.

Illness compelled her to set aside that career. She has embarked on another one: children’s book author. The new choice suits her. Ferruolo’s first published novel has been a big success with critics.

“Ruby in the Sky” (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 304 pp., $16.99) was released in February. The Washington Post has named it one of its eight KidsPost Summer Book Club Reads, it has won a Work-In-Progress award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, and a New Voices in Children’s Literature’s Tassy Walden Award.

“I’ve always loved children’s books. I was a voracious reader as a kid and I read to my kids and loved it. Children’s books have a simple beauty to them,” Zulick Ferruolo says during an interview at her Ellington home, where she lives with her husband Paul, her teens Andrew and Sophia and her dog Meadow.

“It’s so important for kids to read books. I grew up in Ashford. In towns like that, kids feel isolated. They have struggles and no one to talk to about it and they feel lonely. Books help find others in similar situations and you feel less lonely,” she says. “Seeing yourself in a story is so powerful.”

Many downtrodden kids, as well as adults, will see themselves in “Ruby in the Sky.” The book tells the story of Ruby, whose mother Dahlia has moved them from town to town after a personal tragedy. They wind up flat broke in Dahlia’s Vermont hometown. Then Dahlia gets arrested for a crime she didn’t commit.

Ruby hates the town and wants to leave. Her classmate Ahmed, a Syrian refugee, is persistent about becoming her friend. At the same time, she grows fond of Abigail, an old woman disliked by everyone else in town. Ruby, Ahmed, Abigail and Dahlia find ways to stand up for what is right.

“It’s a story about finding your own courage and bravery. Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes,” Zulick Ferruolo says. “A lot of it in Ruby comes from her being an introverted child. She’s not good at speaking out. But when it comes time to speak out on behalf of others, she finds her voice.”

Many elements of the story come from Zulick Ferruolo’s own life. Ruby owns a golden retriever, Bob, just like Zulick Ferruolo’s Meadow. Abigail feeds chickadees by hand, like Zulick Ferruolo’s father taught her when she was a child. Most prominently, one of the heroes of the book is Dahlia’s lawyer, Annie. As Annie says in the book:

“I’ve always liked to help people. People who really need help. And when I did that, I discovered I could be brave because it wasn’t about me anymore. If I didn’t speak up, no one would hear their side. No one would know their story. That’s why I became a public defender.”

Children’s book about Muslim girl forced to flee to West


VANCOUVER, BC – July 8, 2019 – Shaista Kaba Fatehali with 7yr old daughter Myel Noor Fatehali in Burnaby, BC, July 8, 2019. She is a Canadian Ismaili Muslim, a kindergarten teacher, and the founder of THRIVE KIDS! an organization that helps children discover their inner strengths, their identity, and their sense of purpose. She is currently completing her PhD in early childhood education. (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo) (story by Gordon McIntyre) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Gordon McIntyre writes:

After a long and thorough search, after Shaista Kaba Fatehali had exhausted every avenue in her quest for stories that Muslim immigrant children could relate to, the kindergarten teacher and doctoral student sat down and wrote one herself.

Back Home, published by Brandylane Publishers, was launched on Monday, a wonderfully written and illustrated tale about a little girl’s first day at school in her new country, when all goes from being strange to the realization that people are people (and children are children) everywhere on the planet, that more similarities than differences exist between cultures.

“I can really relate to the experiences these kids are facing and there wasn’t any literature they could connect to, that they could see themselves in,” Fatehali said. “This kind of book allows them to connect to the characters, connect to the life events, to the similar situations that take place.”

Fatehali was a baby in the 1970s when her parents fled Uganda and the bloodthirsty tyranny of Idi Amin, who was targeting people of South Asian descent. An Ismaili Muslim who founded Thrive Kids! to help children discover their inner strengths, identities and sense of purpose, she spent two years writing the book — and almost as long trying to find a publisher that would accept a Muslim as the book’s main character.

“It was very difficult to find a publisher,” she said. “I definitely know some of that was because it’s based on a Muslim character.”

Especially in the United States, she said.

“There were a lot of yeses and when they dove into it, those became a lot of nos. They said no right away when they found it’s based on a Muslim-values book concept,” said Fatehali, who is completing her PhD in early childhood education. “I’ve written a lot of academic papers. This was 1,000 times harder than writing any kind of academic paper that I’ve done.”

As a Ismaili, neither Fatehali nor her young daughter Myel wears a hijab, but the author wanted the young protagonist in Back Home, Asha, to wear one so everyone was clear she and her family are Muslim. It was important illustrator Michelle Simpson, who lives in Ontario’s Niagara Region, drew locks of hair sticking out from the little girls’ hijabs, but not from not from the grown women’s.

With a backlash against Muslim immigrants unfolding across Canada and the United States, the book’s message is both critical and timely, Fatehali said,

“My hope, the underlying message in all this is that amongst us all there is a sense of connectedness, and that connectedness comes from humanity, from human existence.

“I think if that concept is really understood by all, there is a lot we can do with that.”

Metallica to publish children’s book, “The ABCs of Metallica”


Detail from the cover of The ABCs of Metallica. Illustration: Metallica

Metallica to publish children’s book, The ABCs of Metallica

Ben Beaumont-Thomas writes in The Guardian:

Metallica, the metal band known for their toxic rivalries, substance misuse and songs entitled Leper Messiah, Harvester of Sorrow and My Friend of Misery, have entered the world of children’s publishing.

The illustrated book The ABCs of Metallica will be published on 26 November, to benefit the band’s charity foundation All Within My Hands. The band wrote it in collaboration with author Howie Abrams, and it is illustrated by Michael “Kaves” McLeer.

The band described the book on their website, saying: “Including rhymes and illustrations, The ABCs of Metallica looks back at the history of the band from, duh, A to Z! Each letter of the alphabet highlights a moment along our journey from Garage Days to Master of Puppets to fun facts about us.”

Christobel Mattingley, prolific Australian children’s author, dies at 87

Mattingley published more than 50 books in her lifetime ( Allen & Unwin )

Christine Manby writes:

When the school magazine refused to publish her poems, budding writer Christobel Mattingley took to her typewriter and produced a magazine of her own. Some 80 years later, Mattingley was one of the most celebrated Australian writers of her generation and a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to literature and social justice.

Mattingley, who has died aged 87, was born in Brighton, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. When she was eight years old, her father’s career as an engineer took the family to Sydney.

Already a keen naturalist, Mattingley began a diary describing the wildlife she found in the family’s new garden. By the time she was 10, her observations were being published in the children’s pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and nature magazine Wild Life. Mattingley’s love of nature inspired much of her work.

Later Mattingley’s father took the family to Tasmania, where he built hydroelectric dams. Mattingley’s time in Tasmania was formative. Her interest in conservation intensified as she saw the struggle between the desire for human progress and needs of the natural world. Years later, the struggle would appear in her books. After graduating with a first-class honours degree in German from the University of Tasmania, she took a job assisting refugees displaced from Europe by the Second World War. Their experiences would also inform several of her novels.

In 1951, Mattingley became a librarian, a career she would pursue until the 1970s, when she became a full-time writer. In 1953, she married David Mattingley a teacher, who had been a Lancaster pilot in the war. His experiences would inspire Mattingley’s 2007 novel Battle Order 204. Together the Mattingleys travelled extensively, beginning with a two-year working holiday in the UK. They had three children.

Mattingley’s first book, a picture book called The Picnic Dog, was published in 1970. Several picture books followed, including the extremely popular Rummage, the story of disorganised Mr Portwine, a rummage salesman, who tries to tidy up his life, only to find that his friends and neighbours preferred him the way he was.

As a child in Sydney, Mattingley had found inspiration in the history, language and culture of Australia’s First Peoples. Supported by her children’s writing, in 1978 Mattingley went back to college to read Aboriginal Studies at the South Australian College of Advanced Education. Upon graduating, she edited Survival In Our Own Land: ‘Aboriginal’ experiences in ‘South Australia’ since 1836, which was shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year Awards 1988 and the SA Festival Awards 1990.

This was the first of several books Mattingley would write at the request of the First Peoples of Australia. They included Daniel’s Secret (1997) and Maralinga the Anangu Story (2009), which told the story of the survivors of 10 years of British nuclear testing on the Anangu people’s traditional lands.

Mattingley published more than 50 books during the course of her career, covering a range of topics as diverse as the worry of starting a new school and a child’s view of life as a refugee. She was extensively lauded for her work. Rummage took the Children’s Book of the Year Award in 1982.

In 1994, No Gun For Asmir, Mattingley’s child’s-eye view of life in Sarajevo during the Balkans conflict was highly commended in the Australian Human Rights Awards. More recently, her 2016 novel, Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story, won the 2017 Young People’s History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.