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Book Review: 'The Big Worry Day' by K.A. Reynolds (Anxiety)

Reviewed by Vasilia Graboski, MS, LLP, Child Therapist




By K.A. Reynolds and Chloe Dominique (Viking, 2022)



As a Child Therapist, I’m delighted that The Big Worry Day is out in the world! And boy, is this

story needed right now! In the past couple of years, anxiety in children is at an all-time high.

Most of us, including adults, can identify with some degree of post-isolation anxiety. Many of

those who struggled with anxiety before the pandemic have experienced an increase in

symptoms. Those who have not encountered anxiety in the past may be feeling the effects for the first time.


We can easily become too comfortable when we are required to stay home for an extended

period. Returning to our pre-pandemic lives has been difficult, especially with the threat of

illness still looming. The post-isolation mental health crisis demonstrates that humans need

connection with others to be “okay.” We also need fresh air and physical activity. This story is

an excellent reminder of the importance of putting in the effort to get ourselves out into the

world, no matter how difficult that may be. Author K.A. Reynolds clearly describes this

struggle:


“I know what it’s like to want to go into the world on adventures and hide in your room at the same time.”


The opening spread of the book invites the reader into the protagonist’s room, filled with toys,

stuffed animals, books, and drawings. This immediately captures the interest of the child reader. Even I felt the urge to jump in and play!


The girl wakes up feeling anxious, worrying about the basic activities of her day. She projects

her feelings of anxiety onto her dog, Bea. By helping Bea conquer her struggles, the girl places her feelings outside of herself. This helps her to cope. Sadly, for most of us, being kind and caring to others comes more naturally than being kind and caring to ourselves.


The illustrations then transport us under the covers and into the darkness, imploring us to feel

intense emotion with the characters. Chloe Dominique, the illustrator, brings deep emotion into

the story through the intense eyes of the characters. The warmth of the eyes also reflects the

strong connection between the girl and her dog.


The girl’s initial attempt to alleviate her anxiety of leaving the house is to over-prepare. What if

we get lost? Compass. What if there are monsters? Sword. We begin to see the excessive amount of time and energy she expends to accomplish the simple task of going outside. Clearly, it’s not so simple for her. However, even with all her preparation, she continues to feel anxious.


Together with Bea, she engages in a series of coping strategies to alleviate her anxiety.

These useful tools are presented to the reader in a fun, child-friendly way. They include deep

breathing, imagery, yoga, and journaling. Drawing and sensory input are also presented in a

more subtle way. A group therapy session with the characters and stuffed animals in a circle,

sharing feelings and hugs, is a magical moment of coping within the story.


After calming themselves, the characters are then able to venture outside. They leave the props

behind. Except the sword because, of course, there will be dragons to slay!


Subtly mentioned after they are outside is another coping tool:

“We bring just a bit of home with us, so we can relax and enjoy the day.”

This quote reminded me of how helpful it can be for a child to bring a meaningful object from

home when they go out in the world. A transitional object is a tangible reminder of home and can be remarkably effective in calming anxiety.


The story is based on the beautiful relationship between the protagonist and her dog. It is a

reminder of how helpful pets can be for emotional health. They provide sensory stimulation, will listen to your deepest secrets without judgement, and love you unconditionally.


The dark scene in the beginning contrasts dramatically with the bright, beautiful outdoor scene at the end of the book. The reader can feel the protagonist’s anxiety lift, creating a freeing and

hopeful ending. Based on her own experience with childhood anxiety, K. A. Reynolds, along

with Chloe Dominique, have created a gift to children to reflect upon themselves with empathy

and hope.


Ms. Reynolds provides an author’s note, in which she describes her own experience with

anxiety. Thank you, K.A. Reynolds, for the courage to share your vulnerabilities with the world

to help others!


And now...

HERE'S AN ACTIVITY IDEA FOR THE BIG WORRY DAY:


Firstly, use this book as a resource for coping skills. Experiment with different strategies and see which resonate most with your child. It is helpful to practice these skills often when the child is feeling calm. This makes the child more likely to use them during times of anxiety. Learning coping skills in childhood will be a gift to them throughout their entire lives.


Activity: My Cloud of Calm


This activity was inspired by the “favorite things” thought bubble spread. In my opinion, it’s one of the best spreads in the book!


1. Cut out a cloud from a large sheet of white paper. Write the word IMAGINE.


2. Have the child choose a person, place and thing that helps them feel calm. Draw each

on the cloud. For example-

Person - my mom, Place - the ocean, Thing - my stuffed bunny.

Have them close their eyes and imagine being in their calm place, with their calming

person, holding their calming thing.


3. Then, have the child name their favorite smell/taste/texture/sound/sight. Draw those

on the cloud. For example-

Smell – cinnamon, Taste – lemon and honey, Texture – smooth polished rock,

Sound – babbling river, Sight – Waterfall

Have them close their eyes and imagine each sensation at a time.


4. Hang the cloud in an area the child will see often.

Practice imagery frequently!


example of a "Cloud of Calm"


 

Interested in what author K.A. Reynolds, herself, had to say about the process of writing THE BIG WORRY DAY? CLICK HERE to read her own post, on A Novel Mind.

 

Vasilia Graboski is a child therapist, children’s book writer, and blogger. After more than 30

years working to improve the mental health of children, she slayed her dragons and took a big

leap. Four years ago, she moved from Michigan, where she lived all her life, to the tropical

paradise of Costa Rica. In this foreign land, she had to learn a new language, become

accustomed to a new culture, and hang out with monkeys, sloths, and toucans. What an

adventure! She lives with her husband, and has two adult children who live on the West Coast of the

U.S., and two grandchildren, who happen to have tails. Vasilia enjoys baking treats, making

greeting cards and exploring nature.


If you enjoyed this blog post, please visit her blog at https://www.vasiliagraboski.com/blog and subscribe! She reviews picture books with mental health content and provides therapeutic

activities to accompany the books.