Hare & Ruru by Laura Shallcrass
Updated: Nov 16
This is the story of Hare, who struggled with an un-named mental malady self-described as 'noise'. Noise could be runaway thoughts, voices in Hare's head, or loud feelings and general anxiety. Hare goes on a journey to try and find a solution. Just when Hare thinks there is no hope, down Ruru flies with a suggestion.
Hare ultimately feels better after following Ruru's advice; talking to someone, focusing on breathing, and connecting to nature.
This children's story is a gentle picture book that safely addresses anxiety and helps our younger generation identify stress.
Author Laura Shallcrass has created a book that is not only beautiful but one that is helpful.
Our six-year-old has always struggled with being 'in her head' and often finds herself anxious and panicky when she feels things are out of her control. Hare & Ruru has been a very welcome addition to our bookshelf and her toolbox of coping tools. She loves nature and felt an instant kinship with Hare, following his journey as he addresses his situation and finds ways to help himself.
She's also included some wonderful teaching notes at the back of the book. These are wonderful ideas parents and caregivers can use to help their children develop resilience and good mental health habits. The questions are simple, yet full of possibility and offer a way for adults to really connect with children. The conversations these questions sparked were insightful, not only for our children but for myself too.
Helpful exercises included in the notes, like 'Ruru breaths' offer practical ways to help, that children and adults will benefit from.
Shallcrass uses a very gentle, almost quiet, storytelling. 'Quiet' seems like an odd word to use, but read the book and you will understand.
Her artwork is simply stunning. She conveys the beauty and intricacies of nature and natural beauty in her illustrations. There are so many layers to her illustrations, each one offering more with each reading.
While this is marketed at younger children, Shallcrass's illustrations - as well as the important topic of mental health - make this suitable for all. The illustrations would make a wonderful art class study. What could each of the items Shallcross has chosen to draw in the 'thoughts having sound' page represent? Why does Ruru speak with stars?
A te reo Māori edition, Ko Hea Rāua ko Ruru, translated by Ngaere Roberts is also available. It is entirely in te reo Māori, including the author's biography and teacher's notes. A glossary of Māori words is also included, and with such a simple story this edition is suitable for both fluent speakers and those learning the language.
Hare & Ruru is a gentle and important story that is much needed in the chaos of 2020. It will spark important conversations and is a safe (and cute) way to raise mental health with our younger generation.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Beatnik Publishing, RRP $30