Sam McBratney: Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See

Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir

Published by Walker Books, London, 2021

The goose on the front cover of this picture book caught my eye, mostly because my son affectionately calls me a silly goose sometimes! In my mind, a goose could never be anything to be feared, mistrusted, or avoided, unless of course that goose was nibbling my hand or chasing me around the farmyard. But that’s just it, isn’t it? The things that make me feel unsafe, worried, or anxious might not be the same for everyone. My worries and anxieties might take the shape of clawing ogres or dark looming shadows, but for someone else it just might be a big goose.

That’s the way it is for a little girl called Mindi. She’s such a sweet character, small and cute, with her yellow sweater and matching yellow gum boots. She is afraid of the goose that comes to her room unbidden and uninvited, that no one else can see. Her dad can’t find it, so he can’t get rid of it. Her mum can’t see it, so even threatening to smack it’s silly bottom won’t help.

Mindi’s parents have a problem, how can they help their beloved daughter?

Luckily for them, there is a wise old man called Austen who lives in the village nearby, perhaps he can help. When Mindi’s dad visits him on Shelling Hill, Austen gives some thought to the problem and says:

“I think you should bring Mindi to see me. Make sure she knows I live a long way away. Make sure she knows that she is going on a journey.”

Mindi and her dad make the short ‘long’ journey to Austen’s farm. Mindi greets all the animals, even two geese! But she makes a special connection with a young goat that Mindi names Black-and-whitey. This young goat has a special talent: if you give her a stone fruit, she will eat it and give you back the stone.

Herein lies the kernel of the story. Sometimes, we have to give something in return for a gift. Austen gives the young goat to Mindi, but in return, she must give Austen the Big Goose that no one else can see. It’s a decision-making moment for Mindi. As heavy as our fears and anxieties may be, their weight is familiar, and it can be hard to let go of them. What will Mindi do?

This is a wonderful story for children who might be experiencing anxiety or fear, real or imagined. It gives them a chance to read about what happened to Mindi, how she described her worries, how her family tried to help her and how they turned to the wider community for advice. It’s encouraging to know that solutions can be found, and that problems don’t have to remain as permanent features of our lives.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that explore what it is like to feel anxious, worried or fearful:

Charlie Star by Terry Milne

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
by Keith Calabrese
Illustrated by Juana Medina

Willy and the Cloud
by Anthony Browne

What If…? by Anthony Browne

The Worry Box by Suzanne Chew Illustrated by Sean Julian

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Be Brave, Little Tiger!
by Margaret Wise Brown Illustrated by Jean Claude

Me and my Fear
by Francesca Sanna

Thank Goodness for Bob
by Matthew Morgan
Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

Anxious Charlie to the Rescue
by Terry Milne

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Oliver and his Alligator
by Paul Schmid

Wemberly Worried
by Kevin Henkes

The Huge Bag of Worries
by Virginia Ironside
Illustrated by Frank Rodgers

Corrinne Averiss: Love

Illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman

Published by Words & Pictures, The Quarto Group, 2020

There is a story in our family about a time when I did not pick up my daughter from primary school. It wasn’t an end of school day pick up at 3.30pm with all the other mums and dads. On this day, it was close to midnight and a chartered bus was delivering children home from school camp. I had waited up sitting on our couch and made the fatal mistake of closing my eyes just for a minute. I woke suddenly to the phone ringing with a concerned teacher on the other end of the line. By the time I got to the school, my daughter was the only child left, standing alone and tearful in the dark, with a teacher by her side.

These moments stay with us. Separation and anxiety are real fears for everyone.

This beautifully illustrated picture book helps young readers to visualise love like a piece of string, connecting us to our family and friends, even when they are not close. Like a warm scarf or a shining light, the strings of love connecting us to those we cherish can envelop us, make us feel safe and help us endure moments of anxiety.

When young Tess goes to school for the first time, she is worried that the string of love connecting herself to her mother will not stretch far enough without breaking. A kind teacher reassures Tess that her mother will return, and a new friend talks about his string of love connecting him to a parent who has died. Tess discovers that everyone has connections that unite them to others, even when they are far apart.

But what happens when Mummy is late to pick Tess up from school and she is left in the classroom with her teacher after all the other children have gone home? Can strings that have been broken, be reconnected again?

The illustrations in this picture book are endearing and heartfelt. I can highly recommend this story for young readers 4-6 years, especially for those who are starting school for the first time and feel anxious about taking the first step. Below are more picture books which explore the concepts of separation and anxiety, love and connectedness:

Ten Beautiful Things
by Molly Beth Griffin
Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga

Starting School by Jane Goodwin Illustrated by Anne Walker

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I Am Absolutely Too Small for School by Lauren Child

Lucy and Tom Go to School
by Shirley Hughes

Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn Illustrations by Ruth E. Harper
and Nancy M. Leak

Come to School Too,
Blue Kangaroo!
by Emma Chichester Clark

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Maddie’s First Day
by Penny Matthews
Illustrated by Liz Anelli

The Pigeon HAS to go to School!
by Mo Willems

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
by Keith Calabrese
Illustrated by Juana Medina

Llama Llama Misses Mama
by Anna Dewdney

The Red Thread by Grace Lin

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson

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Bear and Rat by Christopher Cheng Illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Rachel Rooney: The Worrying Worries

Illustrated by Zehra Hicks

Published by Affirm Press, South Melbourne, 2020

I don’t think I have met anyone who doesn’t worry about something. After all, there is plenty to worry about as we travel through life. Once the worry begins, it can be hard to keep problems in perspective and ultimately, the worry can be overwhelming.

Rachel Rooney has presented this complex issue that afflicts so many of us inside a gentle rhyming story about a small boy who traps a Worry in his net one day and decides to keep it close as a pet. Initially this seems like a great idea and they go everywhere together. As time goes by however the Worry pet becomes larger, more annoying, more itchy, more invasive and begins to feast upon the boy’s tears, sad thoughts and scary dreams. One day, the small boy realises that he can no longer live with this big Worry.

This is a great realisation.

What does he do? He goes to see the Worry Expert.

Her considered advice is to learn to live with the worry to minimize its negative affect in his life. Meditation, positive thoughts, yoga, dancing, exercising, having fun are all ways in which he (and we) can begin to achieve this.

I love the way that the Worry has been illustrated, it is like a small purple thumbprint with stick arms and legs. It is not scary or threatening, but benignly sits close to the small boy in everything he does. As it gets larger, you can see how much space it takes up and the purple thumbprint becomes more like a messy blob. When the Worry diminishes, it tries to thwart the different therapeutic techniques the small boy tries with his Worry Expert, but under her constancy and watchfulness, the Worry just becomes smaller and smaller.

This picture book, with its sensitive illustrations, validates the idea that sometimes we need professional help to overcome our problems. Together, the words and pictures provide a useful tool to begin asking the question, how are you today?

I can highly recommend this book for children 4-6 years and below are more recommendations for picture books that focus on worry and anxiety:

Silly Billy by Anthony Browne

The Worry Box by Suzanne Chiew Illustrated by Sean Julian

What’s Worrying You?
by Molly Potter
Illustrated by Sarah Jennings

The Don’t Worry Book by Todd Parr

The Huge Bag of Worries
by Virginia Ironside
Illustrated by Frank Rodgers

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Worries Go Away by Kes Gray Illustrated by Lee Wildish

The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright Illustrated by Chris Chatterten

Charlie Star by Terry Milne

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
by Keith Calabrese
Illustrated by Juana Medina

Whimsy’s Heavy Things
by Julie Kraulis

Eric Makes a Splash
by Emily MacKenzie