Right now as things stand in 2021 there is so much uncertainty on a daily basis that we face as adults, and it is so easy to overlook the impact all of this is having on children – particularly as they appear to be coping for the most part. Children do however have more to worry about now then previously – When will they return to school? Will they be able to see extended family members/friends any time soon? Are they making enough effort with home schooling? and so on. These worries are additional to those they have already established within themselves, such as a fear of the dark, getting hurt, not being able to swim, and others such as forgetting essential school equipment (cooking ingredients or PE kit) when usually attending school, and many others that manifest within them, depending on their own daily routine and upbringing.
The biggest help available to children regarding their worries is to be listened to, as they open up and talk about them to someone they can trust, whether that be a good friend, teacher, or family member. Children are often reluctant to talk about their fears, worries, and concerns – which could be in part because doing so makes them feel more real, or they worry about looking stupid, and consequently being made fun of. The book The Worries is an incredibly invaluable book to offer to early chapter readers (5-8 year olds) as it tells of Sohal’s battle with worries of all descriptions, and does so at a level that ensures the intended audience understands the underline intentions of the book without sounding patronising – which is important when the author is trying to get readers to trust in the context and content of the story (and its characters), and immerse themselves within an environment that could prove invaluable as it resonates with them personally.
Sohal worries about school life for the most part – particularly being alone and friendless. Keeping his worries to himself means that they continue to manifest and grow, and this is something made visually and mentally understandable to readers because of drawings Sohal does, described within the story, that depict the worries he has as monsters. These monsters are not the stereotypical scary variety, as this would only serve to increase readers fear of them, instead they are friendly, full of character, and a big focal point of the developing story as they come to live from the drawings, and interact with Sohal, who is eager to keep them from being discovered.
It is through his determination to keep his new companions hidden that Sohal makes friends with Jaz – in an awkward, unintentional way – and given that his only other companion is his hamster, this is a big step for Sohal, and one the story recognises and celebrates. So many children struggle to make friends easily, for a variety of reasons, and this part of the story offers up reassurances for readers facing the same. Another big concern that impacts children of all ages is bullying, and this book tackles the subject with a non stereotypical approach by giving both the victim of bullying, in this case Sohal, and the bully’s perspective – a boy called Chip. Through Sohal standing up to Chip we learn that both boys have worries that influence their behaviour, and for Sohal it not only makes him realise why he is picked on, but that Chip does what he does as a way of coping with his own concerns, and whilst they differ to Sohal’s this acknowledgment from both boys leads to a mutual understanding. Even a respect.
Growing in confidence leads Sohal to confide in his parents about what has been happening at school, and the worries he has manifested, and doing so is a huge step in the right direction for him. His parents listen, aren’t dismissive of the importance of these revelations, and support their son as he learns to control and cope with how he is feeling. When his parents see the worries that have come to life from the drawings Sohal did earlier on in the book they welcome them, and treat them with a level of respect that readers will find comforting, and reassuring that talking about our problems and concerns is the right approach. The exchange between Sohal and his parents is incredibly heart warming, particularly as he deserves the support they flood him with, and from the offset you find yourself willing him to be able to confide in them – and consequently much happier.
With the book intended for 5-8 year old readers the balance of telling a compelling story whilst depicting the emotions involved is not lost in this book, even with it being set to resonate with younger readers. The content is worthy of children of all ages, and would be fantastic shared as a class read or in a school assembly as it will relate to so many children. The next book in the series is titled Jaz and the New Baby, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it to will prove invaluable to readers as it helps them to understand how they are feeling, that others feel the same way, and that it is all completely normal to do so, which is exactly what Sohal’s story offers here in The Worries : Sohal Finds a Friend.
This book was published by Puffin on 14th January 2021, and I highly recommend purchasing it from any good bookseller now.