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Little Meerkat's Big Panic: A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm ISBN: 9781785927034
Bean, Izzy and Evans, Jane
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016
Children know all about meerkats these days and often see them on TV, but the little meerkats in this story look more like cuddly, jolly puppies rather than the long skinny creatures on our TV screens. No matter. The story about Little Meerkat and his 'big panic' will ring a bell for every anxious child and for that matter, anxious adults too. Before reading this, I had no idea that there are three distinct parts of the brain which affect our response to panic times in our lives: the reptilian (the flight or fight response), the limbic (where we get our emotional, empathetic responses), and the cortex (where we learn to think things through, to plan, and to be aware of the consequences of our actions). The cortex doesn't develop fully until we are adults. Children only really have the first two types, and this means that panic is more difficult for them to cope with. None of this, of course, is in the children's story. I read it in the later section of the book aimed at parents and carers, but it makes excellent sense. The story itself has Little Meerkat on his first duty as Lookout for all the other meerkats, and he is very worried about all the responsibility. This makes him very jumpy and wobbly and his breathing is fast and difficult. When he actually falls asleep on duty, he wakes to find that all the other meerkats have disappeared. Panic plus! He runs around in circles with a 'racing heart and dry mouth', and when Small Elephant comes along, he is so terrified that he can't talk properly. Small Elephant has had an experience that helps him to empathise with Little Meerkat, and they both run around in panic. It is Mini Monkey who comes along and sees the problem. He helps the two other animals by teaching them to breathe in and out slowly whilst humming, and when they are calm again, it is Mini Monkey who suggests a cool drink of water before they plan what to do next. A calmer Little Meerkat realises that his friends are probably behind a large rock, the place they always go when there is danger about, and so it proves. The three little animal friends represent the three parts of the brain, and each of them has a particular talent. They then give us exercises to do to help us be calm. Older children will find the factual part of the book about the brain fascinating, but younger kids will enjoy the exercises, such as thinking of a calm, happy place you like to be, breathing in and out slowly, standing on one leg and reaching for the sky, having a cool drink, and telling someone how we feel. They will also enjoy the computer generated comic-style pictures. A great book for anxious kids and their anxious adults. Available from Amazon, from good book shops, and from the publisher at
Age: 3+