Written by: Rebekah Ballagh
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
Big Feelings by Rebekah Ballagh explores the world of feelings and the raft of emotions children can feel. Big Feelings is immediately appealing with warm and charming illustrations; bright, encouraging, and inviting. Placing importance on expressing and normalising feelings rather than minimising them, Balllagh gives children insight into having their own agency to display their emotions, whatever they may be.
To me Big Feelings is a great introduction to emotional resilience. Who knows what future resilience will follow if children can let out all their big feelings from when they are little, knowing that everything will still be okay? One of my favourite quotes by Catherine M. Wallace is “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” As a mother of primary and teenaged children, I can certainly attest to the merits of having kids who have learned to express their feelings as they grow and develop. Big Feelings includes a section for parents and teachers to support children to do this.
I asked my son a question from this section: “How do you act when you feel…” He chose happy and responded, “I feel joyous, like a happy virus is running through my body.” I certainly liked the sound of a happy virus instead of the one of late. On the subject of mad and angry feelings, he was quick to mention his ‘frenemy’ who is sometimes nice and sometimes mad.
Big Feelings helps to teach kids that it’s ok to be mad, sad, excited, afraid, or ashamed – the world will carry on, just like they will, and if they can do so with the support of those who love them, they’ll be all the better for it.
“Feeling silly now and then releases stress and strife. It helps to have a little fun to weather storms in life,” Ballagh says.