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What We Learn from Love

Today is #FathersDay. As part of celebrating these #relationships and the ongoing discussion of #socialemotionallearning, today’s blog features a guest post from author Nelly Buchet and a cover reveal for our forthcoming book Abuelito.

Abuelito, a story I co-wrote with my friend David Corredor Benavides, is about the power of friendships—those we share with loved ones who are no longer with us, as much as those just beginning with newcomers in our lives. Based on David’s real-life relationship with his grandfather in Colombia, Abuelito tells the story of a child and his beloved grandfather. But it’s a little different than a classic grandparent story. There’s a third character—a very cute third wheel—who wants to be part of this extraordinary friendship. And who wouldn’t? She’s younger than Alejo, in complete awe of the “big kids,” and clearly doesn’t know how to approach them. Instead of asking to join, she stays on her side of the fence and mimics the boys’ activities as though she were with them.

All of us relate to the feeling of wanting to be part of something special. Younger siblings certainly can! And so can adults. I know I felt it when David told me about his abuelo. This desire to be included, and what to do about it, is one of the social emotional tenets in Abuelito. Readers see that Alejo and his grandfather aren’t purposely ignoring their little neighbor. She is hiding, in a sense. It becomes clear to the reader that if we want something, we must be brave, take action and, in this instance, ask if we can play.

Our little girl finds this courage when Alejo needs her the most. Interestingly, she finally makes her presence known out of empathy for Alejo, rather than wanting to gain something for herself. She’s now the one who has something to offer. Comfort. Compassion. This is another moment of social emotional learning in Abuelito. Not only does the little girl take a proactive role, she actively rescues her hero, Alejo—or “Abuelito,” as she calls him. Friendships are fluid: there will be seasons when one person needs more attention and TLC than the other, and yet both parties benefit from the relationship. Friendships are investments.

Additionally, readers can surmise that Alejo himself learns something: he understands that his neighbor was there all along. Inviting her over would’ve been a kind gesture, if only he’d known. In the future, he’ll be more aware of people in his peripheral vision. Both characters grow from this new friendship.

When life gives you lemons, someone new may be out there to make lemonade with you. For me, this person was David. Together, we made this book to honor both the friendship with his grandfather and our own. And yes, David’s nickname really was “Abuelito.”

Nelly Buchet is the author of ALA Notable Book and Irma Black Award winner Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family (PRH, with art by Andrea Zuill, 2020), the four-board book Can’t Do series (Bonnier UK, with art by Pau Morgan, 2021), and How to Train Your Pet Brain (Beaming Books, with art by Amy Jindra, 2022). She has taught nonviolent conflict resolution in schools and created a nonprofit project that brings picture books to refugee children through orphanages and libraries. She splits her time between Berlin, Germany, and the US. @nellybuchetbooks.

Abuelito, written by David Corredor Benvides and Nelly Buchet and illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo, will release in March 2023.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. As part of this important ongoing discussion, today’s blog features a guest post from licensed social worker, trauma therapist, and author Bethany Walker.

The Struggle Bus. We’ve all been there. It’s a tough day, none of our choices seem to be right, we’re tired and frustrated and feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall. As adults, we have the capacity to express these emotions. Our children, however, have to learn this skill.

So how do we do this? How do we empower our children when they’re on the struggle bus? Social Emotional Learning.

Social Emotional Learning is a key part of childhood, just as much as learning reading or math or how to tie a shoe. SEL is described as “process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2022). By providing children with a variety of tools in Social Emotional Learning we can help make this process more engaging and fun!

Books are an excellent tool for Social Emotional Learning. This can start as early as toddlerhood with picture books! An extra bonus to picture books is the visual representation of emotions, interactions, and experiences. Books can be jumping off points for all kinds of conversations with your little ones. Not only that, but it removes your little one from having to be the one with the heavy feelings or thoughts. Instead, by focusing on the stories of the character, you can discuss these feelings and thoughts without your child feeling put on the spot.

The Struggle Bus by Julie Koon is a great resource for teaching children how to understand and regulate the tough emotions that come from hard days and persevere until they finally reach their goals. In addition to the book, Kind World Publishing has a great selection of resources that parents and educators could use to take the story even further in helping their children through SEL.

The next time your child is having an emotionally hard day, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can help them learn to drive their Struggle Bus.

Bio:

Bethany Walker is an author, licensed social worker, and trauma therapist. She currently resides in Longview, TX, with her husband, daughter, and pets. Bethany focuses her practice on children and families experiencing mental health crises and trauma. She is a member of SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @bookshelfofbeth.

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Irony and Rest

A couple weeks ago, I started writing a post themed “do less, encourage rest,” in the spirit of our collectively self-inflicted holiday chaos.

Ironically, I was writing the post on a Monday evening, laptop perched literally on my lap, in the lobby of my children’s piano lesson academy, while also answering the endless question “what will we have for dinner after this?” and thinking over a seemingly infinite litany of errands and work.

The hypocrisy was not lost on me. I stopped writing, closed the laptop, and paused. In such a state, who am I to tell others to slow down?

A number of influencers today (including Glennon Doyle) noted we’re addicted to Productivity: we feel uncomfortable when we stop moving. Busyness is a means to distract ourselves. But from what? The answer varies by person, but it’s worth reflection. What are you afraid to sit with if you slow down enough to face it?

In late November I promised my kids that I would close Kind World Publishing’s shop during their winter break. It seemed such a lovely idea—until said break arrived. I struggled for nearly a week to allow myself to do nothing, to sleep in, to unplug. (I worried about what wasn’t getting done; am I enough if I’m not working?)

My original notion was to shorten my to-do list. But in recent days, I’ve realized what I really needed was (temporarily) to ditch the to-do list altogether. I needed to be fully present.

When I discussed this post with Reese, she (wisely, always so wisely) pointed out that by not doing everything else the past week, I was doing the most important thing—spending time with her and Axel. And when that “to do” is done, it still should be done over and over again. Love doesn’t belong on a list. The most important things are ubiquitous.

I have a parade of hopes and goals for the new year, both personally and professionally. Some will be on my fresh to-do list; others will be bigger than that. The privilege of having time to reflect means I also have the responsibility to use these insights to the best of my abilities. For me, this means staying aware of our critical human need to pause and reconnect—with ourselves and with each other. To actively resist being active every moment of our life. To create and protect space for all of the thoughts and feelings and fears and dreams.

Humans—all humans—deserve the right to rest without guilt or worry, and to create without pressure to produce.

I hope your 2022 is healthy. I hope you find an important nontangible you are seeking. I wish us all peace and rest and wellness and space. I wish you a to-do list worth doing, and a life worthy of pause that exceeds a list. Happy (almost) 2022 to you and yours.

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Toxic Positivity

The sign you see here hangs in our entryway. It serves as a reminder for me, a marginally recovering perfectionist, to lighten up about life. We’re about a lot of things here at Kind World Publishing, including, of course, kindness. But one thing I’m keenly aware of and actively attempting to avoid along with perfectionism is toxic positivity.

You might have heard the phrase toxic positivity recently, as we wade through the pandemic and the state of the world. Messages to “stay strong” and “do your best!” and “be grateful” and “you’ve got this!” are everywhere, and they can become exhausting (not to mention more extreme versions that can be used to gaslight or worse.)

Dictates and mandates to do and to be things are tough to receive. That is a truth, regardless of your age. None of us wants to be told what to do or to be, even if the intent in those directions is positive. And therein lies the rub.

When things are hard, difficult, extreme, exhausting, life-threatening, simply being told to pull ourselves up by the emotional bootstraps and just keep going does a disservice to acknowledging those painful realities. Before any of us can solve a problem, we first need to accept that a problem exists. And we need to sit with the problem, both in order to notice it and to then put it into perspective. After that, we might be able to better reach the “how” of solving it.

But if we continue to brush over those steps by cheerleading only positivity, that cheerleading becomes pretty hollow. Eventually, incessant positive messages make things worse because it sets an impossible bar of expectations for our emotions. For those who struggle with perfectionism, the expectations can be overwhelming. Hard stuff keeps piling up because it isn’t really addressed, and the space between “stay strong!” and daily realities keeps widening. How many times have you found yourself or the kids in your life on the precipice of falling through and feeling completely stuck?

Rather than telling each other how to feel and championing an impossible state of being, perhaps we should be creating space to listen to other people’s realities, and sit with our own. Rather than letting that urge to “solve it and sweep it” lead conversations, perhaps we should accept that acknowledging hard things has value unto itself.

Modeling this for the kids in our lives is critically important, to avoid setting them up for a sense of failure when they can’t make themselves feel “amazing” about something.

I am not suggesting that we stop championing each other, nor am I saying positive messages can’t be powerful. We can help avoid toxic positivity by remembering that the activities of listening and acknowledging can speak loudly too. They can say, “I see you.”

Part of reaching a positive state involves creating space to process everything that isn’t.

Post Script: If you’re looking for a broader read on this subject, Kate Bowler’s recent book No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) is worth your time. If you’d like a book that can help support kids with acknowledging obstacles, preorder The Struggle Bus by Julie Koon. We’re proud to be able to support work that addresses these topics in a practical, accessible way.

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Soundtracks and Gratitude

When I was in big roles with bigger companies and sometimes (in the before times) working from home, the sound of my family playing together in the background would frustrate me. The ruckus, the yelling, even the loud outbursts of laughter. I was so immersed in the job, I would yell across the house for everyone to be quiet because I was trying to focus on something that “was really important!”

Except, it wasn’t that important. Not nearly as important as that gorgeous soundtrack of happiness, which, because of my own askew priorities, I couldn’t always hear clearly.

As I sit here this morning, listening to that same sound, it fills my heart. I’m so grateful to have my family here, safe and healthy, together. I am keenly aware many people are missing this, who perhaps cannot hear or see the gifts surrounding them in their own lives, or who have tragically or unjustly lost loved ones, soundtracks broken in untimely and unfair ways.

I have a big role now in a little company, (albeit a little company with big goals). We have challenges here and challenges ahead, but there are also so many gifts: the gift of being the decision-maker in how we can help others, the gift of time together—the gift of this soundtrack.

What are you listening to today? And, more importantly, how are you going to respond to what you’re hearing in your heart?