Schools across Ontario are beginning to focus on creating more mentally healthy schools and eliminating the stigma attached to mental illness. Students, parents and educators can relate to having life stressors they are not ready to address or emotionally equipped to handle. Whimsy’s Heavy Things, a picture book written and illustrated by the talented Julie Kraulis, addresses this important focus.
The rather determined Whimsy discovers that her ”heavy things” are weighing her down. Relentlessly, Whimsy tries to hide and destroy these stressors using tactics such as sweeping them under a rug and hanging them in a tree. Slowly, Whimsy realizes she’s tripping over the heavy things she so desperately tries to ignore. Whimsy begins to understand that the heavy things will not go anywhere unless they are dealt with constructively.
When Whimsy tackles the things that weigh her down one by one, she describes herself feeling lighter. This is a wonderful concept we can share with our students about perseverance and turning negatives into positives. The poetic genius of Kraulis is her ability to turn the mental hardship that Whimsy faces into a metaphor of physical weight. When mental stressors are re-imagined as physical obstacles, the reader is able to think of mental health in a new way. Readers can identify with Whimsy in her battle to overcome her stressors and the routes to her ultimate success.
In this beautifully illustrated picture book, the reader is taken on a journey alongside Whimsy in discovering acceptance of emotions, bouncing back in the face of adversity and building resiliency. This book is great for teaching our students how to cope with life stressors and how to use optimism and positive self-talk to improve one’s overall physical and emotional well-being. The text is also a useful tool as a conversation starter or as a mentor-text on the topics of mental health and well-being. I have used Whimsy’s Heavy Things in both literacy and drama-related performances. The story can easily be used in elementary school settings, across all divisions, considering its widely relatable content.
Amy Smith is a member of the York Region Teacher Local.