It is not uncommon for children to experience some level of anxiety or worry when beginning a new school year or starting at a new school. Many adults experience it too when faced with a new situation. It is important to keep the worries in perspective to avoid having them grow uncontrollably until they take on monster proportions.
Today I am interviewing Brooke Graham, author of a beautiful new picture book called Go Away, Worry Monster! that is not only a tool for discussing these worries with children but also shares strategies they can use independently to chase those worry monsters away.
About the author Brooke Graham
Brooke Graham is a children’s author, primary school teacher and mother. She enjoys writing emotive stories that help children cope with life’s ups and downs. Brooke is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), The Australian Society of Authors, and Write Links, a Brisbane based writers’ group. Brooke teaches in primary schools part-time. She also does author visits in schools and kindergartens. In her spare time Brooke enjoys reading, bike riding, bush walking and spending time with family and friends.
About the book Go Away, Worry Monster!
Worry Monster loves ‘helping’ Archie worry, especially on the night before he starts at a new school. Archie feels so anxious that his head hurts, his tummy flutters and his heart pounds. He soon realizes that the only way to feel better is to make Worry Monster go away. He does his belly breaths and challenges his inner fears by facing facts, and Worry Monster is forced to leave Archie alone! Go Away, Worry Monster! gives children useful strategies to cope with their anxieties and stress, showing them how to make their own Worry Monsters leave, even in highly stressful times.
What I like about Go Away, Worry Monster!
The situation described in the story is one that will be familiar to many children and adults. No sooner has Archie popped into bed than he is joined by the Worry Monster who suggests all sorts of things that could go wrong at school the next day.
Archie’s physical feelings of anxiety are described in a way that children will be able to identify, such as fluttering tummy, head hurting and pounding heart.
Just when the Worry Monster seems too big to handle, Archie remembers strategies he’s used before and shows that Worry Monster who is boss. The strategies are also explained in child-friendly ways and are easy enough, and effective enough, for children to implement with the help of parents or independently.
Go Away, Worry Monster! is a heart-warming book that puts anxieties into perspective and makes defeating them seem easily achievable.
Brooke, your book Go Away, Worry Monster! addresses those fears experienced by many children when starting school for the first time or beginning a new school year, especially at a new school. Indeed, the fears aren’t unfamiliar to many adults starting a new job or entering a new situation. Tell us what gave you the idea for writing this story and for presenting it the way you have.
I started writing Go Away, Worry Monster! a few months after my daughter began to experience anxiety. It was awful seeing her so anxious and unsettled when she should have been enjoying herself. I wanted to write a story that other children who experience anxiety would relate to.
To me the most useful way I could help other worried children was incorporate the evidence-based anxiety-reducing strategies that my daughter learnt through counselling into the story. Being a teacher, I know that almost every child is at least a little anxious about starting school and would relate to that topic, so I chose to base Archie’s worries on starting a new school.
How did you feel when you were writing the story?
Excited! As I was writing the story, I knew I had a great idea and it wasn’t just an enjoyable story—it had another purpose, it would help many anxious children and their parents.
How do you hope children will feel when they hear the story being read to them or read the story to themselves?
I hope they will experience joy, especially when they see Robin’s gorgeous illustrations but also feel confident that they have strategies to try the next time they feel anxious or worried.
What is the most important message you would like children to take away from your book?
The most important message I would like children to take away is that they can follow Archie’s three simple strategies if they are feeling worried.
What is your favourite part of the story?
I love when Archie has almost made Worry Monster leave his bedroom. At this point Worry Monster is shrinking in size and walking towards the bedroom door. While Worry Monster is miserable because Archie doesn’t want him to be there, Archie is feeling relaxed and confident because his steps to make Worry Monster leave are working.
Do you like the way Robin Tatlow-Lord has illustrated Go Away, Worry Monster!?
YES! I absolutely love Robin’s illustrations. She has used colouring pencils on blue paper to convey the night. The illustrations are vibrant and full of emotion. I really like how she’s made Owl and Brown Teddy, both of which are inanimate characters so full of life.
What is your favourite illustration?
It’s towards the end of the book and Archie is pointing to his bedroom door telling Worry Monster to GO AWAY. I love how Robin has done a close up of Archie, Toby the dog, Brown Teddy and Owl the night light. She has conveyed so much emotion on all of the character faces and even Owl is pointing to the door showing Worry Monster that he is not welcome in Archie’s room.
Are there any special reminders you have for parents or teachers when introducing Go Away, Worry Monster! to children?
There is a great clue on the back cover blurb – Worry Monster just keeps getting bigger and bigger! In my author visits I tell children they need to watch out for this happening in the illustrations. As we are reading children notice Worry Monster growing in size and we discuss that the more Archie worries the bigger Worry Monster becomes. The children are always quick to see that Worry Monster shrinks as Archie’s worries leave.
Now let’s talk about you as an author. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always enjoyed writing as a school student. In high school, English was my favourite subject and I did fairly well in it. When I was in Year 12 my family encouraged me to get a ‘real job’ so I studied to become a primary school teacher. My favourite part of my teaching day was always reading to my class. I also read picture books to my daughter every night before bed, from when she was a new born until well into her first few years of primary school. When I was in my 30’s I wrote a story for my daughter (not yet published) and I became hooked on writing. From there I completed numerous online courses on writing for children and became involved in the kidlit community.
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?
I live in a small cottage, so my ‘office’ is set up in front of a window that is in between the kitchen and lounge room. I live on acreage so it’s lovely and peaceful, with only the noise of nature in the background. I prefer to write when I’m home alone as it is quieter, however I can concentrate and zone out the tv noise or music if my daughter is home.
What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?
I use a laptop to write my stories but a pencil and notebook when planning them.
When do you write?
I teach part time, so on the days that I’m not teaching I write during the day.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas mostly from my daughter but also from my niece and nephew and also my dogs. I’ve also had ideas from my own childhood and from watching children interact at school.
Do you think of the story in your head before you write it?
Yes, I spend a lot of time getting to know my main character. I also plan my stories and know the character’s problem, the obstacles and how the story will be resolved before writing it.
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
From my own teaching experience, I know that children love being given the opportunity to free write—to write for pure enjoyment without having to focus on spelling and punctuation during the writing process. It’s nice to give them this free writing time every now and again. You’d be surprised how much they get down on their paper while they are not being restricted with overthinking their ideas and sentence structure.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
Write about things that you know about and love. Don’t worry too much about whether an idea is good enough because all practise makes you a better writer.
What is your favourite picture book?
The Sloth Who Came to Stay by Margaret Wild. I think Margaret wrote this for parents just as much as she did for children. It made me realise that I used to rush through the day and needed to slow down and enjoy everyday moments with my daughter.
Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?
My favourite author would have to be Margaret Wild. Her stories often feature animal characters and are full of heart with important themes.
Thank you, Brooke for sharing information about your writing process and your inspiration for writing Go Away, Worry Monster. It was lovely to get to know you and I’m sure many parents and children will appreciate your beautiful picture book with its sensible and easy-to-implement suggestions.
Go Away, Worry Monster! is available for purchase in all good bookstores
and also online through Amazon, Booktopia and Dymocks.
Find out more about Brooke Graham from
Her website: www.brookegrahamauthor.com
Or connect with her on Social Media
This interview is now available free, in a ready-to-print format, in Literacy Resources Author Spotlight Author Spotlight – Brooke Graham, along with interviews with other authors. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.
Remember to check out the complete readilearn collection of
Over 450 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.
I appreciate your feedback and comments. Please share your thoughts below.