• Picturebooking Prof


Title: Catching Thoughts

Author: Bonnie Clark

Illustrator: Summer Macon

Publisher: Beaming Books

Book Birthday: 8/11/20

Themes: Mindfulness, Mental Health

When author Bonnie Clark reached out to see if I’d be interested in sharing an advance review of her upcoming book, I said HECK YES! Regular readers may remember my review of her debut book, TASTE YOUR WORDS, back in April, which has already become a family favorite. Now I’m thrilled to spread the word about her sophomore offering, CATCHING THOUGHTS.

Using the metaphor of balloons, CATCHING THOUGHTS follows a little girl through a day when she just can’t get rid of an unwanted thought. This thought starts out as a small gray balloon, but soon grows to take over the page, as the girl tries everything she can think of to make it go away. But then the girl discovers the power of collecting bright, colorful balloons, representing thoughts of hope, joy, and love. Although the unwanted thought is still there, it is now back to being a small gray balloon, and gradually fades further into the background.

This little book packs a powerhouse of a discussion starter for parents and teachers wanting to help kiddos grow in mindfulness and emotional intelligence. As a developmental psychologist, I can attest to the importance of teaching kids the power they have when it comes to their thinking—we are not slaves to our thoughts and anxieties, and by acknowledging negative thoughts and then purposefully cultivating thoughts that are lovely, we can rewire our brains, build resilience, and improve mental health. The very simple balloon metaphor provided by this book is a great way to introduce this concept to young children.

I will say that, at least for the younger picture-book set, the book will likely require a follow-up discussion. The specific “thought” is purposefully left open, letting the reader insert whatever unwanted thought he or she may have been struggling with—perhaps mean words from a friend, fear of the dark, or…a “virus.” This is a strength, as it lets everyone fit the tale to their particular experience. But this also makes the overall story quite abstract, and some 4-6 year olds may not “get it” without some exposition from a grown-up.

For example, when I read the book to my 5-year-old, he said he really liked it (he loves balloons!), but I could tell he was confused. So, I asked him if he ever had thoughts that he wished would go away. He said yes—about monsters. So, we went back to the beginning and read the whole book again, this time replacing the generic “unwanted thought” with his specific “thoughts about monsters.” On this second read-through, he GOT IT. He also came up with examples of more specific positive thoughts he could collect—thoughts of jokes with grandpa, mommy snuggles, and doing a “cool move” in gymnastics—whenever he wanted his “monster thought” to fade away. And now, we have shared language (balloons!) to talk about thoughts in a way that is more concrete. Yay!

I just want to end with a quick note on the illustrations. Summer Macon did an amazing job conveying the depth of the text while keeping it fun and whimsical. The use of colors is masterful, as the tones shift from grays to rainbow-brights over the course of the girl’s thought-collecting journey. Just lovely!

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book for any parent, teacher, grandparent, or therapist with young kids in their lives—pre-order now or go get it on August 11th!


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