Living with ANTs


By Sally-Anne McCormack, 
Illustrated by Lindsay Flatt

Living with ANTs has been written for parents to read and explain to their young children about the power and danger of negative thoughts. Author Sally-Anne McCormack, a clinical psychologist and media consultant explains how ANTs — an acronym for “automatic negative thoughts” — pop up automatically in one’s mind. She is concerned about depression in young children and the need to teach them preventative skills with which they can identify and change their negative self-talk.

The book is based on cognitive behavioural therapy that aims to empower children to recognise these negative thoughts and thereby control them. If the ANTs persist, children are advised to talk to a parent or trusted adult. The book focuses on the persistence of negative thoughts but gives fewer suggestions on how to replace them with positive thoughts.

Reviewed by Janine Kitson

I Just Get So… Angry!


By Timothy and Sandra Bowden
Illustrated by Sandra Bowden. Wollombi, NSW
Exisle Publishing, 2013

I Just Get So… Angry! is written for angry, male, high school students. It is written in cartoon form, with an entertaining plot and good dialogue that visually captures powerful and subtle understandings of anger. It also deals with other strong emotions connected to anger such as jealousy, resentment and fear.

Youth anxiety and depression are on the rise. Research indicates that at any given time up to 10 per cent of teenagers suffer from some form of mental health issue that directly impacts on their education and health.

This book is written by two experienced educators — Timothy Bowden taught English and History in high schools for 14 years before retraining as a school counsellor. Co-author Sandra Bowden taught in primary schools before retraining as a school counsellor and becoming a registered psychologist. Her beautiful and subtle illustrations provide the story’s powerful metaphors — entrapment in deep holes, getting stuck in unpassable terrain, being blinded by thick fog, climbing challenging mountains, wearing protective armour in vain — and give the cartoon novel authenticity. It is an entertaining, accessible and easy to read book, sprinkled with subtle humour, and would appeal to students who find reading difficult.

The story revolves around Andy, an angry young teenager, who fights with his mother, teacher, girlfriend, best mate and himself. His anger overwhelms him so he stomps off to the beach. There he is besieged by a thick, blinding fog that leads him fall down a deep hole. There in the darkness, Andy meets a wise and patient sea eagle, who becomes his mentor and leads him on a journey of self-discovery and forgiveness. He learns to understand his anger and emotions and fi nds the courage to stand up to his own inner demon, “the Beast”.

The book builds self-awareness and self-acceptance of one’s negative thoughts. It provides insights into these negative thoughts. “You aren’t your thoughts,” it says. “Just because you think something, that doesn’t necessarily make it so.”

I Just Get So… Angry! shares the insight that anger is just a cover for other deeper hurts such as abandonment, fear and jealousy. It has a positive and affirming ending. The cartoon novel is based on acceptance and commitment therapy, which teaches recognition and acceptance of one’s negative emotions to build emotional resilience.

It would be an excellent resource for an anger management program in high schools.

Reviewed by Janine Kitson

The Old Green Chair

By Traudi Allen
Illustrated by Rob Cowan
Balboa Press, 2012

The Old Green Chair is a modern fable for primary school students that teaches respect for the value of “old things” and encourages positive thinking in difficult circumstances.

Author Dr Traudi Allen, an art historian, wrote the book to help children grasp the value of visualising positive outcomes.

It is a story of an old and well-loved chair, but after an accident in which it loses a leg, it is thrown onto the footpath for rubbish collection. Luckily it is spotted and recognised for its worth, taken home, repaired and painted, and it restarts its happy and proud life.

The story challenges our shallow society, which discards and disregards what is old.

Reviewed by Janine Kitson

Distressed or Deliberately Defiant? Managing challenging student behaviour due to trauma and disorganised attachment

By Dr Judith A. Howard
Australian Academic Press, 2013

Every teacher who has ever walked into a classroom will recognise a student who fits the behavioural profile described in Distressed or Deliberately Defiant?

What this book does, which is different to many behaviour management books, is describe the physiology that leads to student behaviours that teachers find so distressing. Because of what Dr Howard terms “disorganised attachment”, or the inability to attach in a positive way to significant adults in their lives due to ongoing trauma, these students exhibit behaviours that are beyond their power to control.

Dr Judith Howard has worked as an educator, a child and adolescent behaviour specialist, a school counsellor and a researcher. She explains in layman’s terms the brain activity due to the release of hormones that triggers the fight, flight or freeze response in students. These responses can lead to disruption, which impacts on the students suffering the response, on other students in the classroom and playground, and on the teacher who is responsible for the teaching and learning environment and the wellbeing of all students.

Dr Howard explains that the student suffering disorganised attachment has no control over their initial response to a perceived threat at school. The response will take time to subside because of the level of hormones in the brain. This should determine the management strategies for the student — instead of punitive, the strategies should be “proactive, reactive and reparative”.

This book is full of practical advice, including an example of a crisis management plan that could easily be adapted for any school environment. It is important to have an understanding of the physiology of disorganised attachment as a result of ongoing trauma to design and implement effective management plans. For this reason it is important to read each section of the book and not skip straight to the strategies section.

This book is not only for those teachers new to the profession. It also has much to offer experienced teachers, school learning support officers (SLSOs) and learning support teams.

Distressed or Deliberately Defiant? is available for loan from Federation library.

Reviewed by Julie Moon

All these books are available to borrow from the Federation library.