Mar 202021
Review: Hope: Let’s Talk Mental Health!
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Title: Hope: Stories for a Healthy Mind

Author: Pragati Sureka

Illustrated by Nina Sud

Published by Scholastic India

Type: Paperback

Age group: 6-9 years

Aparajita, my almost-8-year-old and I spent the last weekend reading Hope: Stories for a Healthy Mind, written by Pragati Sureka.

I have been meaning to broach the subject of “different behaviour” with her for while but I was afraid of making the conversation too stereotypical in an attempt to simplify it for her. Books are such saviours! If well-written, they help parents like me discuss a topic that is not in their comfort zone, with ease!

Hope, I would say, is one such book and is largely well-written, simple yet not simplistic.

The book takes us through the lives of three children – Ryan, Shoma and Kabir – who are either dealing with a mental health issue themselves or have a family member who does. The stories take us through the discomfort that the child experiences, how they find an empathic adult who discusses the issue with them and they find a solution or a possible explanation that helps the child sail through.

I appreciate the fact that none of the stories have a “happily ever after” ending, but a realistic one which is likely to be the case in real life as well.

In one of the stories, a mother and a child discuss the childs’ father’s anger issues. It ends with the mother joking about the fact that she is likely to get “very angry” if the food gets cold. I found that a little insensitive especially since only a few paragraphs earlier, the child was anguished at the father’s temper bouts? Perhaps the mother was trying to make light of the situation after a difficult conversation? Or maybe that was the way she was dealing with the situation – by sometimes laughing it off? It would be helpful to understand the author’s perspective.

Surprisingly, another of the stories talks about a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I haven’t heard of a child with OCD, so this was an eye-opener! I was under the impression that it was only an adult thing.

I also felt that the characters in the stories could have been fleshed out a bit more – but that’s just me – I am a bit of a reading between the lines kind of person and minute details about characters, their mannerisms etc. make them more relatable.

Overall, I would think that Hope is a great attempt at normalizing conversations around mental health issues and a must-have for every growing child’s library – considering the kind of stress and pressure our kids’ go through these days. The sooner we introduce these themes and help them understand, the better they would be able to cope or help a peer cope with them.

Here’s what Aparajita thinks of the book:

I think this book is good for parents to understand how to have good conversations with children on their problems. All the three children – Ryan, Shoma and Kabir – are kind, smart and brave because they told their parents about what was troubling them.

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