Tag Archives: jessica kingsley

Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly

Today we bring you a review by Sarah from The Puffin Diaries, of the book Banish your Self-Esteem Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly

This book aims to teach young people, from aged ten, to use cognitive behavioural therapy to build positive self-esteem. The book can be used by a parent or a practitioner with the young person and is a combination of segments to read and activities to carry out.

self esteemWe have had this book some time, over a year, however we have used the book on and off through out this time. One of the main reasons for this is that we’ve accessed sections of the books which have I have considered age appropriate. So whilst my son at ten could access the first three chapters, which explored the concept of self esteem, he seemed less able to grasp the concepts of following chapters which delve deeper into how self-esteem develops. We have however returned to these sections at a later date.

The book is highly interactive and easy to follow, making a logical progression for the reader, building on one idea to the next. It was easy to break into smaller sections, which suited my son, as whole chapters include quite a lot to digest in one sitting for a younger child. That said my son asked on a number of occasions if we could work together from the book. He enjoys the one to one time and also the opportunity to explore himself with someone that feels safe by his side.

My son particularly enjoyed designing his own self-esteem vault, where you keep safe all the positive beliefs you have about yourself, from the self esteem thief, who you can also draw your own version of.

There are activities and parts of the text that are much more suited to teenagers than young adolescents. For example, there are case studies from older children which include incidents of self harming. I think this is particularly important to take into consideration when dealing with children who have suffered early life trauma and have a younger emotional intelligence than their physical age. My own son struggled a little with some of the list of emotional labels unable to differentiate between words like, embarrassment and shame or sadness and a low mood.

Another good reason to work in small sections was that reading about all the bad things you feel about yourself as you tick a long list of words you agree describe you, can be upsetting in itself. Sometimes I’d see we need to switch mode so that a dark mood didn’t stay with my son.

As the parent or teacher it is worth reading through to the end first and finding sections you can turn to and use to create positive endings to your sessions. There are some deep breathing and relaxation exercises which we introduced earlier than the progressive stage in the book because they were enjoyable to use. 

So in conclusion, this book is a really thorough and useful workbook to help young people understand how their own self-esteem works. I do consider the whole book suited more to teenagers, however I found there were sections that can still be useful for  those younger. My own son is turning thirteen soon and I’m sure he will ask me again if we can look at it again.

Starving the Anxiety Gremlin by Kate Collins-Donnelly – A Review

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries has reviewed Starving the Anxiety Gremlin available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

I have been using this book with both my children over the last couple of months, a boy aged 9 and a boy aged 10.

anxietyGI initially worked with my youngest son, as he was having a great deal of anxiety around going to school. He has always struggled to verbalise his emotions and often hides his feels and emotions. I hoped the book would help use explore some vocabulary and narrative on what he has been experiencing each day in the school environment.

The book aims to offer a cognitive behavioural approach to managing anxiety, suitable for those 10 years and above (I was aware my youngest wasn’t quite the right age but hoped we could pick the bits out that were suitable).

The book suggests that it can be used by the young person to work through or alongside an adult or professional. I think the child would need to be at least a couple of years older than my children to be able to make good use of the book independently.

My 9 year old and I started at the beginning, reading the introduction. By the second page my son was engaged with the content. Here speech bubbles suggesting different ways a child may feel when anxious offered an opportunity to yes or no to how he might be feeling.

BOOK : “Do you feel like you have no control over how you react when you are anxious?”

SON : “Yes”

So a good start.

The book goes on to describe what anxiety is and what different types of anxiety exist. Some of this content, as throughout the book, is aimed at older children. For example self harming, drinking and drug abuse are listed as behaviours that anxiety may induce. However I did find it easy to skirt around these and lots of the other content was very relevant and useful to discuss.

We did the anxiety word search together and also did a really good work sheet on colouring in the physical anxieties attributes which are relevant to you.

In fact the whole chapter on identifying what YOUR own anxiety is, was a good interactive experience which really helped me to understand a lot more about how my son feels.  

It really highlighted his separation anxiety from me, which previously I hadn’t considered to be the real problem. I presumed that the school environment was the problem.

With my 9 year old we are still working our way through the book, choosing the sections that are suitable for his level of emotional maturity, which really is younger than 9. I think he may not be fully able, as yet to grasp the concept of CBT, however we are still reading some sections and doing the bits he’s happy to do, it can’t do any harm. I’m sure we will come back to it all as he develops.

I have also now started working on this book with my soon to be 11 year old son. He is off to high school in September and whilst he is excited now, I know he will develop anxiety over the prospect over the summer. I think the book will be pitched at a level that he is mature enough to understand; he has a greater emotional intelligence than my youngest son. He enjoys the prospect of discussing his emotions and is asking when we can do more work together.

On the whole I think this book is an excellent tool for prompting discussion around anxiety, explaining anxiety to a child and teaching them how to manage this response to situations.

As yet we have not completed the book and therefore can’t vouch for its complete effectiveness. However, I’m a true believer that even if our children take a small amount of what we’ve worked from and translate it into their lives, then we have had a success. As we have already created a greater understanding of this emotion and prompted discussion, I would say this book is a great success for our family.

Book review: How to Get Kids Offline, Outdoors, and Connecting With Nature

Today’s review comes from our own Vicki, who has had the pleasure of reading How to Get Kids Offline, Outdoors, and Connecting With Nature, 200+ Creative activities to encourage self-esteem, mindfulness, and wellbeing by Bonnie Thomashow to get kids offline


If you’ve ever read my blog – The Boy’s Behaviour – you know that I like to have a load of activities planned for school holidays to keep the children occupied and to help my own sanity.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to think of original projects and activities for the children to do, so you can guess how pleased I was when this book dropped through my letterbox from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


Now, neither of my children at 7 and 4, are really old enough to spend that much time online anyway, although the littlest one is a fan of the goggle box. But I would like to make sure we can spend lots of time outdoors this summer, making the most of our large garden, nearby woods, parks, local beach and nature reserve.

This book by Bonnie Thomas – a child and family counsellor living in the USA, is full of ideas for nature based activities and exercises that will inspire and encourage young people to spend more time outdoors.


The first few chapters are aimed at professionals working with young people who would like to incorporate more nature work and exercises in their practise. To be honest, I completely skipped those first four chapters to begin with, and opened up from Chapter 5 – Gardening for Wellbeing, which is the first of the chapters that are aimed at parents and care-givers.


I’ve already written down a good couple of dozen activities that I’d like to try with my kids this Summer (and probably before because I’m not sure I can wait!). There are a few activities that some children might struggle with, possibly because of the emotions they invoke, or purely because they’re a bit fiddly and less dextrous children might become frustrated, but as a parent you’d be best placed to pick and choose those relevant activities.

There are sections on gardening, general outdoor activities, blacktop (pavement/tarmac) activities, sand and beach, forest and trees, fields and grassy areas, puddles and mud, rivers and streams, snow and bringing nature indoors. Each section has a really good selection of activities from crafty makes (with minimal supplies needed) to imaginative play opportunities and suggestions.

My own favourites so far are making a fairy garden*, chalk photo booths, sand silhouettes, ice cube boats and a garden play kitchen.


After poring over the parent’s chapters, I popped back to the beginning and have scanned through the professional’s activities because I wondered what was there.

The chapters include ‘Incorporating Nature in Your Therapeutic Practice’, ‘Relaxation and Mindfulness’, ‘Self-Esteem and Positive Connections’ and ‘Nature-based Therapy and Grief Work with Youth’. And within those sections are further activities that are not only for professionals but could be adapted for use at home – storytelling stones, nature collages, zen gardens, wishing wands and many many more. Some of the professional activities also give suggestions for discussion and reflection.


This book is well written and packed full of activities. The professional part looks just as interesting and informative at the parent’s part and is something that intend to read in more detail. The only thing that lets this book down is that the photos are in black and white, I think they’d look much better in colour.

But I’d certainly be interested in reading further titles by the same author – Creative Coping Skills for Children sounds particularly relevant.


You can buy this book from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, priced at £15.99

fairy house*Editor’s note: OK, so I really couldn’t wait to try out the Fairy House and Garden, and Dollop and I spent an hour one morning collecting bark, twigs, dried bamboo leaves and raiding the shell collection, then another hour or more in the afternoon making a house, shed and a veg patch for some fairies. Dollop even made some magical petal perfume to encourage the fairies to come to her house 🙂 It was a brilliant activity that not only saw us connecting with and collecting natural objects, but then I got treated to a wonderful story, courtesy of her four year old imagination, and she got more and more ‘into’ the idea of fairies coming and what they’d do…she can’t wait to check in the morning to see if they’ve visited.