Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay- Esther Marshall Book Review by Eleanor

(image: Esther Marshall/ Sophie Says)

I am absolutely delighted to read and review this incredible childrens book from the Sophie Says series by author and award winning campaigner Esther Marshall (with illustrator Buzz Burry).

Esther’s story is close to my heart as not only is she from my own community but her late sister Rebecca z’l was a doctor who had bipolar disorder and sadly passed away a few years ago, while Esther was writing her second book. Esther has shared that it was her sister who encouraged and inspired her idea to write the childrens books that she couldn’t see for her own child (in terms of positive messages, inspiring rolemodels and diverse characters in terms of both race and gender). Through her sister’s struggles, Esther also began to include positive mental health messages on talking and sharing emotions, self belief and self esteem too.

Esther has said,

“I knew from the second my son was born I wanted to teach him that girls were just as strong and powerful as boys, that people from different backgrounds to him could teach him things and he should listen and be kind to everyone.
The problem was, all the books I could find to read to him had:

  • Mostly male characters (even the animals)
  • Little to no diversity or representation
  • No female role models he could look up to

So I decided that if I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read to my son, I’d better write my own.

I want all children to know and believe that they can achieve their dreams regardless of gender, race, religion or class”,

Esther at Sophie Says has not only thought about what stories she wants to tell through the books, but what messages children reading them will take and absorb. She has partnered with illustrator Buzz Burry and comments, ‘we are helping children bypass harmful stereotypes before they set in by changing the face of children’s literature. Our mission is to enable all children to grow up feeling equipped and empowered to face their futures. To learn more about themselves, others and the world around them. We are helping parents to teach their children positive messages and providing a toolkit to navigate some of the trickier conversations.

These books teach children about:

• Emotional Resilience
• Mental health
• Equal opportunities
• Relatable representation 
• Diversity and inclusion
• Self-belief
• Responsible messaging 

Esther very kindly gifted me copies of her first two books- Sophie Says I Can I will– which is about a little girl Sophie with big dreams and no limits. and Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay which focuses on Sophie, Jordyn and Jamie on their journey as they learn that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and it’s okay not to be okay. The books are for children in the early years, ages 3-7 years and reading the books with either parents, carers or teachers is recommended. Esther told me she has ‘tried to create books which cater to both home and school so that it can be embedded in both parts of a child’s life and become the foundation of them building resilience at an early age.’

Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is a very special book- and one of the first I have seen to address children’s mental health in an age appropriate way, to teach children about their emotions and that it’s OK to feel sad, scared or worried. The book follows Jamie who is looking down and feeling sad but whose best friends Sophie and Jordyn help him through and Sophie tells him ‘its okay not to be okay’. They take him to the zoo to help him feel better and speak to Sophie’s older sister Meghan who is wise and will give good advice. Esther named the character after Meghan, Duchess of Sussex who she met with Prince Harry and other young leaders and was inspired by (she gave them a copy of the book too!)

Meghan (the character) says this important message,

It’s okay to be sad and okay to feel down. Just make sure you have good friends around. There may be days when you feel you’re alone but around us, you’ll always be at home. Its Okay not to be okay”

The book also reinforces self belief and esteem , reiterating that ‘YOU are enough!’ and encourages children to talk about their feelings because it can help. Jamie then says he will speak about his feelings in a place he feels safe in the zoo,

I don’t really know how to describe how I feel
As I can’t work out what’s in my head and what’s real.

He said ‘ a smile may be what you see, but that’s not what I feel inside me

There are times I feel quite alone because these feelings are unknown

Some days I’m happy and some days I’m sad and other days I just feel so bad’

(image: Esther Marshall/Buzz Burry/Sophie Says)

His friends then show him support and love, take him to the funfair, all while reinforcing positive kindness and support- ‘Yes we can!” . The book talks positively about the kindness of friendships always being a safe space to talk. This is so important for children particularly in the early years who are learning to understand their feelings.

Esthers writing is beautiful- on one of the last pages of the book she says ‘Whatever you do, be kind, you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind’.

The book was informed by her sister Rebecca’s struggle with mental illness (bipolar disorder). Esther has said, ‘I had always planned to write another book all around mental health to help children understand their feelings and talk about them more openly, and I sadly lost my sister, Rebecca, to mental illness as I was writing it. So the second book Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is dedicated to her memory’.

Esther wanted to amplify the message and so it was released on World Mental Health Day. The book provides a toolkit for parents who want to help their children to express their own emotions.

She has been visiting schools and doing zoom readings of her book to share the messages for her. Esther told me, I would love that as a result of children reading the Sophie Says books that children understand these vitally important lessons through a fun way of learning and it helps them build resilience and confidence to go out and achieve their full potential whilst being able to understand and manage both their physical and mental health. .’.

Esther is a true force of nature and someone who inspires me so much. She has just released a third book in the series Sophie Says Be Proud of Who You Are which is about Sophie and the rest of the Sophie Says crew on their exciting seaside adventure as they help their friend Priya build her confidence, as they guide her through believing in herself and being proud of who she is. The perfect book to help your child build their confidence and self esteem!

I would recommend the Sophie Says books to all parents, teachers and carers of young children. I can’t wait to see how this brand grows and what Esther achieves (she has achieved so much already!). She should be rightly proud of her work and all she has created.

To learn more about Sophie Says and buy the books click here

You can read Esthers blog dedicated to her sister here: https://www.sophiesaysofficial.com/blogs/dear-rebecca. (If you are over 18 as contains triggering content)

About Esther

Hi, I’m the founder of Sophie Says and the author of the books within the series. The idea for the first book (Sophie Says I Can, I Will) came to me after having my son, Asher (who is the first and most important reader of all the books!).

I knew I wanted him to grow up understanding that both girls and boys could achieve anything that they set their minds to, but I couldn’t find any books that featured a female lead character (a human one, not an animal one!) that really represented the message I wanted to teach him. So I thought, if I can’t find the story I want to tell, I’d better write it myself.

I was gifted two books in exchange for an honest review. Any links are unpaid. These books are incredible.

The past few months: Mental health and Covid.


(image: istock)


Hi everyone,

I havn’t written a blog for a bit just because my start to the year was completely crazy.

Firstly, my dear Grandpa who was 94 passed away in January. Grandpa has been my guiding light, friend, surrogate parent and more. He was an incredible man and I will miss him terribly. Then, the next week, my family and I unfortunately contracted Covid 19 and tested positive.

Thankfully, we were all able to manage the horrible symptoms at home. I spent 2 weeks sleeping, aching, dry cough, no appetite, had chills and fever, headache and such fatigue all I wanted to do was sleep…. it was like a super powered flu and I was so scared as being only 32, I am unvaccinated. Covid was just awful and my Mum had nausea too and loss of taste and smell but she has pulled through.

With immense gratitude, we have all recovered.

I found that having Covid and it being so debilitating that I really lost my confidence in myself and my work as I was off for a few weeks. Slowly but surely this is coming back.

Having Covid made me realise how much I appreciate my life and how thankful I am that my symptoms (and Mums and others in my family) did not become more severe.

I will always miss Grandpa, but I hope we can continue on his legacy.

Love,

Eleanor x

Life is Finite: How to Deal with this and our Mental Health.


(image: thefreshexchange.com)


Humans are probably the only species on the planet that know that life is finite. Practically every other creature that ever existed did so in a state of blissful ignorance. The end of life wasn’t some dark, horrible certainty that needed pushing to the back of the mind. It just didn’t exist psychologically. 

We have no such luxury. As thinking beings, we have to confront this issue, one way or another, and somehow try to make peace with it. It’s not easy. 

Over the years, you can see some of the strategies people used to try to do this. One method was believing in the afterlife and in the soul – somewhere that you’d go once your physical body finally gave up. For many people, this is a core tenet of faith. For others, it is not. The idea that we could somehow pass away into nothingness seems like a tragedy.

Aging is currently a big issue in our society. The number of people over the age of 65 is the highest that it has ever been. And it is going to continue to grow as the population changes. Fewer people are having babies, and more people are living into their seventies, eighties, and nineties. It’s a big difference compared to just a few decades ago. 

In this context, we are all having to learn how to deal with our finite lives. But what’s the best way to do it? 

Get Comfortable With It 

Nobody likes the idea that we’re here for a small amount of time. We have these unlimited imaginations. And yet, we’re confined to these Earthly bodies.

One piece of advice is to try to find ways to become comfortable with the fact that life doesn’t go on forever. It seems taboo to even talk about it, especially when there are people around us approaching the end of their lives. But it is critical that we address the issue internally. Unless we can somehow make peace with it, we’ll never find peace in ourselves. We will always have this gnawing feeling at the back of our minds that the whole show will come to an end. That’s no way to live. 

Talk To Somebody About It

Sometimes, chatting to somebody you trust can help you come to terms with the facts of life. If you don’t have anybody in your life who fits the bill, then there are plenty of helplines available including Samaritans or you could talk to your GP or a therapist/ psychologist if it is beginning to impact on your day to day living and mental wellbeing . 

In many cases, just getting the words out can help tremendously. Speaking your mind to a sympathetic person is a great way to come to terms with reality. 

Prepare For It

The finitude of life can also be scary for another reason – the fact that we aren’t always prepared for the end of it. We can spend weekends worrying about what will happen to our loved ones when we are gone. 

We can’t go on living forever. But we can make financial arrangements to ensure that people who depend on us are taken care of in the future.

Setting up a policy to provide a lump sum to your relatives and dependents is relatively straightforward. And getting free gifts with life insurance is always a bonus. 

Complete Your Goals

Having the discipline to complete your life goals is a real skill and one that relatively few people ever manage to master. Ideally, you don’t want to get to the end of your life only to look back on it and regret that you didn’t live it the way that you wanted. You need to feel like you completed your goals – or at least took control and moved towards them. 

Sometimes taking the plunge and just getting on with things that you’ve left on the back burner is the best way to cope with the fact that life is limited. When you pursue that which is truly important to you, a lot of the worries and concerns disappear. You know that you’re making the best possible use of your time – and you’re grateful for it. 

Appreciate What You Have

Yes, the facts of life can be tough to accept. But it is also worth appreciating the fact that you’re here in the first place – a very unlikely event when you consider all the people who could have been born throughout history. That’s some consolation when you think about it. There is always goodness and hope in life- make the most of it.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

Bereavement, PIP, Promotion and Panic by Eleanor

 

 

Hi lovely readers,

So much has been going on that its been a little overwhelming so I didn’t feel able to sit here and type out my feelings. But today, I feel like I can share so here goes.

My dear father in law passed away from brain cancer at the age of just 67 last month. This was expected, after a two year battle, rounds of surgery and chemo and radiotherapy and being told they could do no more treatment as he had two aggressive tumours and they couldn’t operate further. However, it was still immensely painful when it happened (although we were all with him at a nursing home) and we had the funeral and week of mourning (shiva) as per Jewish tradition. I moved in to my in laws home that week to be there to support my husband, brother in law and mother in law.

We will all miss him terribly- a truly wonderful man and it was a privilege to know him.

Despite this sadness in our family, some positive news has followed. I had applied and been awarded a disability benefit called PIP (Personal independence payment) and been awarded it due to my bipolar disorder and panic attacks impacting on my mental health and ability to work outside the home. This greatly helps our situation and means I can work alongside it too in my role at the Body Shop from home and around my writing (my book Bring me to Light is available here) . We also found out that Rob is being taken off furlough and returning to work on the 1st September- he has been furloughed for 6 months and this was a huge relief for us, as you can imagine.

Additionally, a few weeks ago I got promoted to Area Manager of my Body Shop team, team Hope. This means I manage a team of consultants/ manager in training and help them to develop their businesses too. I feel incredibly lucky to do a job that I love from home and be so supported by my manager Sarah and all my wonderful team mates too. I truly love this job and hope to make it my full time career eventually. The products are so good for self care too.

Now on to my mental health. My anxiety has returned with a vengeance these past few weeks. One night I was up til 5am with panic and insomnia (feeling tearful, restless and pumped with adrenaline) so took some prescribed anxiety medication. I also use a lavender pillow mist which helps me to sleep better too. I have had to cancel and reschedule things. I am not good with change and my anxiety is being triggered. I have a wonderful therapist and so I will definitely book in another session with her soon because I can feel myself dipping a little.

The guineapigs are adorable and good for cuddles and I have had a lot of support from friends and family, so thank you for that, and from Rob too.

How is everyone?

Eleanor xx

 
Infographic by Mindful Urgent Care