Tell us a bit about your background, and what first inspired you to write this picture book.
The Boy With Big, Big Feelings first started out as a poem for my son when he was about 2yrs old. I knew early on that he had a tender and empathetic heart (along with some sensory sensitivities), and it bothered me that even as a child his emotions were being met with the encouragement to repress: ie. "You're ok!" "Oh, don't cry." "You're a big boy!" I wrote the poem originally to make more room for big emotions in little boys. What has come from it is a book that has resonated with all sorts of kids and kids at heart, especially during a time in our history when there is so much to hold emotionally with and for so many. Your story has a beautiful honesty to it, in how it discusses all the outsized emotions that sensitive children feel, good and bad. How important was it to you, to write with this type of honesty?
I appreciate this review of the approach, though in all honesty this wasn't so much what drove me as did the commitment to bear witness accurately to the ways my son experienced the world. To that end, I told the truth about how I perceived his engagement with his environment (both positively and negatively) and determined to celebrate that for exactly what it is—not despite what it is. I also wanted to make sure to highlight that it is often not just the traditionally-labeled-negative emotions that big feelers experience. But part of their superpower is that they feel the traditionally-labeled-positive emotions just as deeply. What types of feelings are kids dealing with today?
I feel very fortunate that people whose families have found a home in the book sometimes reach out to me to let me know what type of impact it has had on their little ones (and the little ones inside of them). In doing so, I often hear (and have experienced myself) that children who have a hard time with transitions or news about pain/loss, or who carry the weight of others' emotions on their own shoulders have had particular aches, especially during this pandemic.
One of my favorite unexpected-byproducts of The Boy is that, often when our son doesn't have the language for how he is feeling on any particular day, we will grab the book off the shelf and simply ask, "Can you point to the page where the boy feels like you felt today?" It has been a conversation started on multiple occasions for which I am so thankful.
Are you someone with big big feelings? :-)
I think the older I get, the more in touch with big feelings I become. However, I am probably more susceptible to being the kind of personality that squelches big feelings. I think that is really why the book was so important for me personally. If I want the world to make more room for kids like mine, I must start first in making more room for them within myself. In terms of a young child's Social-Emotional-Learning (SEL)... what do you hope a young reader will take away from the story -- what gift are you trying to give them?
You are not alone. You are seen and celebrated for exactly who you are. We need you because of these special aspects of you, not in spite of them. You can remind us what matters, how to look longer at what deserves our attention, and how to connect to one another. What do you hope adult readers will take away from the story -- what gift are you trying to give the adults?
You are not alone. You are seen and celebrated for exactly who you are. We need you because of these special aspects of you, not in spite of them. You can remind us what matters, how to look longer at what deserves our attention, and how to connect to one another. ;)
Britney Winn Lee is an author, editor, and nonprofit director living in Shreveport, Louisiana, with her creative husband and big-hearted son. Lee serves as the full-time director of Noel Community Arts Program, the part-time editor and content coordinator for Red Letter Christians, and is represented by Lisa Jackson at Alive Literary Agency for her writing.
Lee's books include The Boy with Big, Big Feelings (Beaming Books), Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice (Upper Room),and Deconstructed Do-Gooder: A Memoir about Learning Mercy the Hard Way (Cascade Books). With a BA in religious studies and a master's degree in nonprofit administration, Lee has worked for over a decade in faith- and justice-based, creative community-building.