Book Review: Maia and the Worry Bug, by Julie Burgess-Manning

Available in bookstores nationwide.

cv_maia_and_the_worry_bugMaia and the Worry Bug was thought up by a Christchurch psychologist, Julie Burgess-Manning, and teacher Sarina Dickson. This book is part of a programme which assists families in managing anxiety. Children and families affected by the Christchurch earthquakes are the target market (and in fact, junior and middle school children in Christchurch have been provided with a copy). Anxiety is not, however, just related to natural disasters, and as such, this is a really useful family resource. It has been reviewed by other psychologists and is recommended by the Children’s Commissioner, Russel Wills (a pediatrician).

Maia’s family has a worry bug come to stay. It is quite small, and gets to work on Maia’s Mum, getting her to start compulsively checking on the soundness of the house and the wellbeing of the family. The bug feeds on the worry and the worries spread to Maia’s Dad, and then to Maia. The now rather large worry bug enjoys the family spending all their time worrying, and eventually the family feels better just staying at home together and cross-checking all the safety checks that they each make. Nell the neighbour points out that all the checking and staying at home is not making them feel any better and the family addresses the worry bug.

The story is concluded with a family toolkit – good questions to ask each other to check on anxiety levels and to explore how each family member reacts to anxiety. Children are encouraged to draw their own worry bugs and to explore the anxieties that might feed them. There are a list of resource organisations at the end of the book and a link. This website has a tool to measure anxiety, and further suggestions for people and organisations to contact if you need some help managing anxiety.

Having experienced the odd family crisis myself, I really value the idea of resources being available in the home for parents to use with their children during difficult times. I have sought out such resources previously and have a couple of books hidden away in the wardrobe in case of crisis! This though is a book useful to keep close by, as it is quite easy for anxiety to get out of hand. Using the tool at the back of the book I learnt (one) of the reasons why my daughter had trouble going to sleep – she didn’t believe that we would hear the smoke alarms while we were asleep. She had jumbled up some information learnt in her school based fire safety programme! We were able to provide her with the correct information and help make her worry bug a little smaller!

Review by Emma Wong-Ming

Maia and the Worry Bug
by Julie Burgess-Manning, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Kotuku Creative
ISBN  9780473319250

The school part of this resource is called Wishes and Worries, here is our review of it.

Book Review: Wishes and Worries by Sarina Dickson, illustrated by Jenny Cooper


Available in selected bookshops.

Wishes and Worries is part of a home-school resource for teachers and parents to use
when wanting to help children who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety. The concept came about as a response to the aftermath of Christchurch earthquakes, when many children were demonstrating a need for help managing their worries. Utilising cognitive behaviour and narrative therapy, the book helps adults to help children in an easy-to-follow way.

Wishes and Worries is the part of the resource for teachers to use at school (Maia and the Worry Bug is the book for parents to use at home). It is designed to be read aloud, and then for NZ Curriculum-linked activities to follow within the classroom.

Dan has a constant stream of self-talk going – although for him it feels like it’s coming from external sources. He feels under pressure to let his mum get to work even though he’d like her support at school, as he finds it a high-stress environment. He really doesn’t want to be there, but he knows his mum will be frustrated with him if he tells her about it. The adults in his life don’t get what’s going on for him. Dan is carrying so much worry and fear (a rumbling truck causes him to hold his breath before he realises it’s only a truck) that it’s affecting his concentration. Luckily, he discovers an almost magical way to take control of his worries and turn them into something wonderful.

The follow-up activities are well-thought through and would be very easy for a teacher to use with no adaption required. They help children to identify their own worries, to think about how it affects their thinking and their bodies, and ideas for how they could address them within the classroom in a safe and supportive way.

While the book was written in response to the Christchurch earthquakes, it could apply to just about any situation that I can think of, including children who are anxious about lots of things, rather than in response to an event. Children have all sorts of worries, and adults often dismiss them with comments like “You don’t need to worry about that” or “You’re just being silly” – and these sorts of responses really don’t help, they just drive the worry underground. It’s so much healthier for children (and adults!) to identify their anxieties, realise their mental and physical responses, and deal with them accordingly. Wishes and Worries will definitely assist caring adults to help the children in their lives.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore, primary school teacher

Wishes and Worries
by Sarina Dickson, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Kotuku Creative
ISBN: 9780473319250