We are delighted to host a guest post from Ewa Jozefkowicz, author of 'The Mystery of the Colour Thief' (read our review here), published May 3rd 2018.
In this post, Ewa discusses mental health issues in primary-aged children as well as the real life inspiration behind the book and how she hopes 'The Mystery of the Colour Thief ' will help children to reach out.
Children and young people’s mental health is a subject that has recently had a lot of media attention, and various studies have shown that teachers and senior leaders in schools are increasingly concerned about anxiety and depression among their pupils. It’s an extremely sad subject, but I’m so glad that it’s being talked about more openly, as it means that there is already a lot being done to support students who are struggling.
The Mystery of the Colour Thief was partly inspired by a little girl I once met at a school where I was a governor. She was feeling isolated at home, as her mum was seriously ill. She had no brothers or sisters, and she felt as though she didn't have anybody to share her troubles with. Luckily, she was eventually able to open up to her teacher.
‘How do you feel about it all?’ the teacher asked.
The girl seemed to think about her answer for a while and then she said quietly, ‘It's like all the colours have gone.’
It was such a moving image, and gave me lots of food for thought. It mainly made me think about how fortunate it was that the girl felt able to open up to her teacher, as I was certain that there were many children going through similar problems, who didn’t feel that they were able to speak to anyone who might help. Often, they might hide their problems so well, that many teachers may not even realise that something is wrong.
These days, we’re very good at presenting what we think are ‘the best versions of ourselves’, especially on social media, but that only makes us feel more alone, as we imagine everyone else has a happy and perfect life, which just isn’t true – children, I believe, are more affected by this than anyone else.
Through Izzy’s story, I wanted to show young readers that if you’re feeling sad, anxious, angry or generally not yourself, you are most definitely not alone. There are other people who have been through similar experiences and can help to bring back the colour to your world.
Izzy admires her new neighbour Toby, who she thinks is bold and fearless, despite the challenges that life has thrown at him. It’s only when he opens up to her about his own suffering that she feels that she’s able to tell him about the nightmares that have been plaguing her, and the colours disappearing from her bedroom wall. With Toby’s help, as well as support from her dad and her aunt, she is eventually able to begin to feel more like her old self.
In the Teacher’s Notes on The Mystery of the Colour Thief (which are free to download here), there is a series of important questions asked about independence and when to ask for help. The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an incredibly strong and independent person, but still experience problems which you need a bit of support with, and I think it’s important to spread this message among school children.
These days teachers are expected to play so many roles within children’s lives, outside of what was traditionally expected of them, and with a huge workload it’s often difficult to be able to spot any differences in a child’s behaviour that may signal a problem. All we can do is to make seeking support in difficult times as normal as possible and to keep reaffirming the message that there are most definitely adults who care.
Click here to read our review of The Mystery of the Colour Thief.
Click here to download Ewa's teaching notes to accompany the book.
Many thanks to Ewa for sharing this blog post with us.