Thursday, September 10, 2020

Bipolar Bear (A Resource to Talk About Mental Health) - Victoria M. Remmel

At Reading for Sanity, we understand the importance of honoring different voices and experiences, especially those that are frequently marginalized or stigmatized.  In that vein, we have decided to dedicate more of our upcoming reviews to books and authors that offer perspectives on disabilities and disorders.  We'd also like to direct you to our new label (Disability / Disorder), located in the right sidebar, where you can find more books like this one.   

Summary: Sometimes Bipolar Bear finds himself at the bright North Pole or the dreary South Pole.  Using tools he finds either on his own or with the help of his family, he's able to make his way back to his home.  Cut out the sunglasses and the flashlight in the back and get involved, and if you flip through the pages quickly, you just may find a small surprise.  (Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:   Polar Bear and his family live in the very center of the world but sometimes he wanders to the far off reaches of the planet.  Sometimes Polar Bear visits the North Pole and dances dizzily in the hot, bright sun.  Other times, he meanders down to the South Pole where he naps in the big, heavy darkness.  When it all gets to be too much, Polar Bear uses sunglasses to help dull the blinding, bright sun of the North Pole and a flashlight to bring light to the dreary darkness of the South Pole.  Sometimes he can find these tools on his own and make his way home and other times he needs his family's help.  One thing is certain, no matter where in the world Polar Bear may roam, he always returns home to his loving family.

I am beyond thrilled that this book exists. Explaining a complicated concept like bipolar disorder to a child can be quite challenging, but Bipolar Bear sets parents up for success and provides a wonderful jumping-off point for deeper conversations.  Not only is it easy-to-understand, imaginative, and beautifully illustrated in soothing watercolor, its potential to help increase understanding and empathy about mental health issues is immeasurable.

Along with some helpful web resources, there are a few more illustrations at the end of the book that show animal parent/child duos, with the parent either wearing sunglasses or carrying a flashlight.   The final pages of the book also contain a pair of paper sunglasses and a flashlight that can be cut out and are meant to represent treatment in all its forms.   There are more instructions that go along with these 'tools' but, ultimately, they are  meant to give children a voice when they feel helpless.

Now, can we talk for a sec about the absolute brilliance of the title Bipolar Bear and its play on words?!  I am going to spell it out for you, just in case you missed it.  Polar bear spends time at both the north and south pole, making him him a bi - polar bear.  Literally.  One assumes he is also bipolar.  So that makes him a bipolar BI-POLAR polar bear.  It's just so clever and while I'm not sure if kids will catch the nuance, I sure appreciated it. 

Long story short -- The world needs more books like this one.  It addresses a specific need in our culture and helps combat the stigma surrounding mental disorders.  I would recommend it to anyone who needs help explaining bipolar disorder to an itty-bitty loved one.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: All clear.

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