By Judy Moreno
Looking back on childhood, you might recall everything bopping along swimmingly: playing with friends, loving your family and waking up each day happy and bursting with exuberance. Then, you might recall your emotions getting in the way of all that, and suddenly, nothing is quite so simple. Rex’s Journey: Helping Children Understand and Cope with Emotions (Mascot Books) by Dr. Ambroes Pass-Turner does just what it promises in the title. A kid’s emotional landscape is full of hills and valleys, and kids in Rex’s situation might very well experience similar fears when faced with this uncharted territory. To help guide young navigators, Dr. Pass-Turner steps in.
Rex is a content child who does well in school and gets along with those who cross his paths. All is well … until it isn’t, when “one day, Rex’s attitude changed. Instead of being happy and fun, he would feel sad and angry for no reason. Rex didn’t understand why this happened. It made him feel like he had no control over his emotions.” Does this sound familiar to any adults reading this review? Everything starts to unravel for our little hero now, and his relationships and schoolwork suffer for it. Things get even worse when Rex is sent to the principal’s office: the principal calls his parents and his parents call a counselor. This spells certain doom, right?
A KINDLY COUNSELOR COMES TO THE RESCUE
Not so fast! For starters, the counselor has some super fun toys for Rex to play with before they talk. This helps ease the terror. Then, when the talk begins, it turns out that Mr. Brown isn’t that scary himself. He gently nudges Rex to disclose some of the inner conflict that bubbles over into outer conflict and invites the little boy to draw something happy. Rex draws his family, and in doing so, he draws out joyful associations. The counselor encourages him to keep it up at home and also gives him a useful lesson in taking deep breaths when things get just too overwhelming.
Rex doesn’t magically banish all his difficulties overnight, but through the knowledge of, and practice of, these and other coping skills, things get a whole lot better; “as time went on, he began to feel less angry and sad, and he found he could control his emotions and negative behavior.”
A HELPFUL GUIDE TO GROWING UP AND GROWING EMOTIONAL AWARENESS
The author is a Doctor of Counseling Psychology and the owner of a Counseling Services business, so she is well-equipped to pen a book on the complicated and delicate subject of mental health, a topic that is only more delicate when children are involved since one’s early years are proven to be particularly formative in development. Illustrations by Agus Prajogo perform their due diligence, authentically, but still playfully and colorfully, depicting the emotions that are central to the story’s message; Rex grins and grimaces with great expression.
The book doesn’t sugarcoat the way children acutely feel the aches and pains associated with growing up. A simply-phrased line like “Rex said he was sad about how the students bullied him and how no one would play with him” alludes to the all-too-common, and truly saddening, issues of bullying and rejection. Most parents would be happy to know that their child has strong coping skills to overcome these very real obstacles to better mental health. This book can help assure kids that facing their fears, and talking to a stranger about them, can help make those fears less scary.