Coming out in March 2016, Little Meerkat’s Big Panic (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) by Jane Evans and illustrated by Izzy Bean is a children’s picture book about how to cope with anxiety. Intended for younger children, this book can be appreciated by kids and adults.
Here’s a quick summary….. Put in charge of the other Meerkats, Little Meerkat stands on the Lookout’s branch. After he watches and listens, he falls asleep. When he wakes up, he cannot see the Meerkats he is supposed to be watching. Paralyzed by anxiety, Little Meerkat is helped by Small Elephant and Mini Monkey, who help him realize that the Meerkats were never really lost after all.
Parents and teachers who want to share this book with younger children should preview the book and its “Information for Adults” section. This section helps adults consider how to address anxiety with younger children and the elements of the triune brain, represented by the book’s Meerkat, Elephant, and Monkey. There are also several questions posed to readers within the book.
Though I am a firm proponent of books helping children overcome obstacles they may be facing, I must say I feel the book’s explicit considerations of and strategies for childhood anxiety make the book more suited for counseling sessions than, say, classroom reading time. The wife of a former school psychologist, I imagine school psychologists, school counselors, or private therapists using this book in small groups or during therapy to help kids think about how they deal with their fears. The breathing and counting strategies shared in the book may align more with the goals of small groups or therapy sessions than classroom reading time. Moreover, mental health professionals may be more adept at helping kids with anxiety and the questions children ask about the characters than a classroom teacher.
Just because I believe mental health professionals might be more prepared to help children with anxiety than classroom teachers does not mean I do thank Jane Evans for writing a book that I believe will help many young children who suffer from anxiety. I am pleased that books like Little Meerkat’s Big Panic exist in a world that still does not quite understand the struggles people with mental illnesses face. Little Meerkat’s Big Panic normalizes anxiety and helps children feel confident that they can overcome their fears.
Here are some ways to support children with their reading of Little Meerkat’s Big Panic
(1) Ask children to draw about a time they were fearful and discuss how they overcame this challenge.
(2) Parents or mental health professionals might have children practice the strategies Meerkat learns so they can apply these strategies during a time they feel fearful or anxious.
I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about Little Meerkat’s Big Panic in the comments below!