Therapeutic Fairy Tales: For children and families going through troubling times

‘Therapeutic Fairy Tales are a series of short, modern tales, dedicated to supporting young children through challenging situations of life and loss, covering diverse themes such as family breakdown, untreatable illness, and parental depression. Each short story is brought to life by engaging, gentle and colourful illustrations, and can be used by professionals and caregivers to support children’s mental and emotional health. 

This set also includes the Storybook Manual, which offers practical and creative ideas on how to use illustrated storybooks therapeutically. Exercises have been designed to encourage children’s imagination and creativity, develop confidence and emotional literacy as well as deepen engagement and understanding of storybooks.

Books in the series include: Storybook Manual: An introduction to working with storybooks therapeutically and creatively, The Storm: For children growing through parent’s separation, The Island: For children with a parent living with depression, The Night Crossing: A lullaby for children on life’s last journey, Designed to be used with children aged six and above, each story has an accompanying online resource, offering therapeutic prompts and creative exercises to support the practitioner. These resources can also be adapted for wider use with siblings and other family members.’

Storybook Manual: An Introduction To Working With Storybooks Therapeutically And Creatively (Therapeutic Fairy Tales)

This resource has been designed to support practitioners and caregivers with practical and creative ideas on how to use illustrated storybooks therapeutically with children. Whilst this book is also available to purchase as part of a set, with three therapeutic fairy tales, all the content, worksheets and activities can be used with any illustrated story.

Exercises have been created to encourage imagination and free play, develop confidence and emotional literacy as well as deepen engagement and understanding of stories. It is a book that can be returned to again and again to inspire creative engagement with stories with individuals or groups.

Key features include:

  • An exploration of the importance of stories to modern life, and their use as a creative and therapeutic tool
  • Guidance for working with stories and their illustrations, including conversation starters, prompts and worksheets for process-orientated creative activities
  • Accompanying online activities designed for specific use with the storybooks in the Therapeutic Fairy Tales series

This is an invaluable resource for all professionals looking to work therapeutically with stories and images. It will be particularly valuable to those working in child and family mental and emotional health, social and youth care, community and participatory arts, school and education, and specialised health and hospital environments.

The Storm

This beautifully illustrated and sensitive storybook is designed to be used therapeutically by professionals and caregivers supporting children whose parents are going through a separation. With engaging and colourful illustrations that can be used to prompt conversation, it tells the story of a brother and sister, who are helped to come to terms with the new, changing shape of their family.

The Island

This beautifully illustrated and sensitive storybook is designed to be used therapeutically by professionals and caregivers supporting children with a parent who is suffering from depression. With engaging, gentle and colourful illustrations that can be used to prompt conversation, it tells the story of a girl who is helped to feel less isolated from her parents’ depression.

The Night Crossing

This beautifully illustrated and sensitive storybook is designed to be used therapeutically by professionals and caregivers supporting children with an untreatable illness. With engaging, gentle and colourful illustrations that can be used to prompt conversation, it tells the story of the final journey made by a Boy with a Bear, as the Boy says his goodbyes and comes to terms with his life-ending illness.

My thoughts

Initially it was the stunningly beautiful, sensitive illustrations that won me over. It is a beautifully presented selection of books. But of course they are so much more than that.

Let’s begin with the Storybook Manual. Filled with insightful information and years of experience from both Pia and Sarah. The manual begins by looking at ‘a brief historical context of oral storytelling, myth, fairy tales and metaphor, and therapeutic stories’, this in itself was fascinating and reconfirms my belief that stories have the power to heal, the power to improve and the power to remind us that we are not alone.

Oral storytelling forms part of our collective human history. Like breathing, it appears that it’s how we are made, with an innate need to share stories between families, peers and our wider communities.

Storybook Manual – Background- The ancient art of storytelling

The book then goes on to talk about ‘Using story and metaphor to make sense of the unknown and unfamiliar.

Learning to express thoughts and feelings is all part of growing up. Children learn through the tools we present them with, be it something like a talking turtle, bird or bear. Complex emotions can be explored safely within the stories they read or see. This manual discusses how to approach these incredibly delicate situations by working with storybooks therapeutically and creatively. From creating the right conditions – ‘a sense of safety, an open attitude, authenticity, warmth, trust…’, settings, timings, purpose and looking at the benefits of these sessions for all ages. It then goes on to ‘Attending to psychological processes evoked in the child and practitioner’ – a reminder that stories are powerful tools that may activate specific feelings.

This manual will give you the tools you need to approach the situation in a mindful manner. It provides suggestions on working with the story providing a range of techniques including conversation starters and prompts which you can adapt to suit the situation and child you are working with. There are also a range of worksheets for process-orientated story activities and then a chapter on using stories and storybooks as a basis for creative art-making exercises – again including some example worksheets.

This manual can be an inspiration to work with any illustrated story, not just the three that come with the set. It can also inspire sharing through image-making. Expressing ourselves through words can be difficult, this is especially true for children.

Sometimes it’s not the right time for words. Maybe it’s too early and time may need to pass before raw feeling can find form in words. Or maybe, we are working with children in extreme situations where words just don’t translate the depth and intensity of emotions being evoked. In these moments, storybook pictures can really help.

Storybook Manual – Summary and conclusions

The manual and three storybooks can be purchased as a set or individually. The Island is a beautifully told and illustrated story of a young girl whose mother suffers from depression. The girl takes care of her mother and tries to make her happy. She encourages her to come outside but her mother only see the ‘rolling fog’.

A shadow crossed her Mum’s face, “So many questions and this bad weather…it’s tiring me out.”

The Island

So the girl goes alone, wondering if it is something she herself has done or said. She goes on and arrives on a lonely island feeling isolated and alone. Then she meets a friendly turtle who shows her that she isn’t the cause of her mother’s sadness and that she can’t be the one to help her. The girl then asks “How do I get off this island?” and the turtle shows her the way. It is a wonderful story that reminds children that they are not their to fix the problems of others and that it’s okay to ask for help for themselves from the right person.

The Storm is written for children with parents going through separation and divorce. Looking at the complexities of an unhappy relationship where the children catch the sharpness of words within their ‘twisty old treehouse‘.

With a quick frown, the Sister and Brother tried to carry on. With games to invent, life to live, they could almost ignore the storm-cloud growing, the leaves whispering. Still the cloud grew bigger, whipping up their parents’ hurts and voices, stirring them round, turning them louder.

The Storm

The family home is torn in two and the children, unsure of why or what is happening, fall down through ‘broken ground beneath their feet. Tumbling through the crack, they landed at its bottom where the oldest, deepest roots lay.‘ Not knowing how to get home again the children meet a Firebird who helps them find their way back and understand that their family will be a different shape but that “Mum will always be Mum, and Dad our Dad…even if they’re not together.

The Night Crossing is heartbreakingly beautiful and covers one of the hardest subjects I imagine any child and carer can face. It is ‘especially written for children making their final goodbyes to families and loved ones due to untreatable illness.’ Comforting and gentle, this book covers the difficult subject of approaching death, yet it is filled with beauty, love an even a little hope.

He looked up at the fading stars and closed his eyes. A deep sleep was pulling him now, the deepest of all. Snuggling under the blankets, the Boy felt a strange sensation. It was a feeling of hands outstretched beneath him, the hands of people gone before him, young and old, reaching out to support and greet him.

The Night Crossing

Of all the books this was the one that I was most anxious about reading yet I found it the most comforting. Loss of this kind is one of the hardest to deal with, either the loss of a loved-one or coming to terms with facing the end of our own journey. It is such a hard subject to undertake and I feel that Pia and Sarah have approached it with wonderfully.

I feel that this collection of books would be an essential tool for anyone who works closely with children; especially therapists, counsellors, social carers, teachers and learning support. The storybooks are specific tools for specific areas, but the manual is a wealth of resources that will prove useful for many situations.

It is often said that we don’t know just what someone else is suffering. It is so true. Sometimes children need a way to express their feelings and to learn to understand them, and these books will enable you to help them to do so.

Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me these unique and remarkable books. Difficult subjects have been dealt with with grace, empathy and delicacy. They are truly wonderful and I hope that they find the people who need them to make the sadness in life a little easier.

About the author – Pip Jones

Pia Jones is an author, workshop facilitator and UKCP integrative arts psychotherapist, who trained at The Institute for Arts in Therapy & Education. Pia has worked with children and adults in a variety of school, health and community settings. Core to her practice, is using arts and story as support during times of loss, transition and change, giving a TEDx talk on the subject. She was Story Director on artgym’s award-winning film documentary, ‘The Moving Theatre,’ where puppetry brought to life real stories of people’s migrations. Pia also designed the ‘Sometimes I Feel’ story cards, a Speechmark therapeutic resource to support children with their feelings.

About the illustrator – Sarah Pimenta

Sarah Pimenta is an experienced artist, workshop facilitator and lecturer in creativity. Her specialist art form is print-making, and her creative practice has brought texture, colour and emotion into a variety of environments, both in the UK and abroad. Sarah has over twenty years’ experience of designing and delivering creative, high-quality art workshops in over 250 schools, diverse communities and public venues, including the British Library, V&A, NESTA, Oval House and many charities. Her work is often described as art with therapeutic intent, and she is skilled in working with adults and children who have access issues and complex needs. Sarah is known as Social Fabric 

Categories: Personal and Social Issues, Personal Development, Review

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2 replies

  1. Thank you for your empathy and understanding of our books, we are so very grateful for the emotional journey you went on to process them and the sensitivity shown – it’s much appreciated as is helping us to get them to the people who will benefit from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully done! –bowmanauthor/bowmaneditor

    Liked by 1 person

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