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by Alison Hughes ; illustrated by Jan Dolby

Pub Date: May 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-988347-11-0
Publisher: Clockwise Press

A young child struggles to banish pervasive negative thoughts.

“I have a cold little voice that follows me everywhere,” the beleaguered narrator declares as a snarling, blue, tadpole-shaped thing with arms taps their shoulder. Sometimes it “digs in its claws and whispers its cold little thoughts,” berating their every inch—from their “ridiculous” haircut to their “funny” gait—until it’s all they hear. After the child, who ordinarily has purple skin, is “crushed” into “a small, grey nothing” and wonders, “Will it ever, ever stop?” a sunny voice they “never even knew [they] had inside [them]” says, “I’ll make it stop.” To that end, they sit in the sunlight, snuggle a cat, and seek out rainbow-skinned people who “like [them] the way [they are]. People who help.” (Unfortunately, the nature of this help is unspecified.) They resolve to “pity” and “hug” their cold voice so that it will “grow into a big, warm, kind voice” and possibly befriend “other people’s cold little voices,” spreading happiness until cold voices disappear. Though hopeful, this approach—culminating in seething voices filing through a “kindness factory” to emerge all smiles—feels unsettlingly facile against such relentless, unexplained self-criticism. The “little” voice looms frighteningly large; neither the text’s Comic Sans–esque typeface nor Dolby’s pastel-hued, cartoonish illustrations soften its nasty, eager grin or the exhaustion shadowing the child’s eyes.

Readers struggling with low self-esteem might find coping strategies here, but caregivers will want to add another: asking an adult for help.

(Picture book. 6-9)