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February 6th 2024
Our first book is A Horse Called Now, a sweet and calming story about a horse who supports her animal companions through their worries, and helps them appreciate the present moment. It is an ideal title for discussing mindfulness or anxiety with your pupils. In this blog, we asked author Ruth Doyle and illustrator Alexandra Finkeldey about the important animal companions in their lives, and how writing and illustrating helps ground them in the here and now.
Illustration by Alexandra Finkeldey. What 'tiniest blinks of magic' will you notice today?
Does writing help you live in the moment?
When I’m writing, I live completely in the moment and time disappears!
What advice do have for young readers about how writing can help ground you?
I’d advise young readers to let go of anxieties about the technicalities of writing and write freely and without judgement (including silencing their own inner critics). When working in schools, I tell the children that writing is a way to have a voice in the world and that all our voices - and stories - matter. Every child arrives with a fresh perspective that is both valuable and potentially ground-breaking. When children realise this, and have the opportunity to freely express themselves, it can be empowering and life-changing.
Keeping a journal can be helpful too, as a way of processing our experiences and setting our thoughts free.
What spread in the book made you feel the most peaceful when illustrating it?
The spread where Now and her companions are watching the storm from inside the barn was the most peaceful for me. I love the contrast of the turbulent, stormy sky against the calm interior.
Illustration by Alexandra Finkeldey. Today, give yourself a calm moment to breathe and observe.
What advice do you have for young readers about how drawing can help ground you?
For young readers, I would say that drawing is an excellent way to use multiple senses. I like to focus on the process as much as I can. For example: the feeling of the paper, the swishing of the paintbrush, the way colours mix together. If I’m feeling stuck or anxious I like to shake things up by using different tools. My favourite grounding materials are clay and collage. They keep both hands busy, which is a great way for me to stay focused.
Make a list of the 'tiniest blinks of magic' you and your pupils notice throughout the day.
Ask your pupils if they have any special relationships with animals - whether that is a pet, or a favourite animal.
How does this animal make them feel?
see all children's mental health recommendations