Kit and the Missing Notebook: A Book About Calming Anxiety – Chris Andrew Wheeler, Lindsey Erin Wheeler, and Carmen Saldaña Gutierrez

Kit and the Missing Notebook: A Book About Calming Anxiety by Chris Andrew Wheeler, Carmen Saldaña Gutierrez, Lindsey Erin Wheeler
Published by Zonderkidz on April 9, 2024
Genres: Children's
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Join Kit as she learns a lesson about overcoming anxiety and makes some new friends—and some delicious soup!—along the way. As kids get to know this little kangaroo with big feelings, they will discover how they can manage their own stress and new experiences in a healthy, positive manner.

When Kit’s family moves to Cozy Lane, she feels anxious. Exploring the neighborhood with her notebook where she writes everything down makes her feel a little better. But when her notebook goes missing, not even her new hamster friends can help her calm down. Then Mrs. G., the guinea pig next door, has an idea. They all make soup together, and as Kit breathes in the smell and breathes out to cool it, she finds herself feeling calmer. She even realizes her notebook isn’t as lost as she thought!

Kit and the Missing Notebook uses a fun and relatable character to teach children ages 4-8:

What anxiety is and how to identify it in their bodies.
A simple breathing exercise—smell the soup, cool the soup—that promotes mental wellness and can help when they are feeling overwhelmed.
How to use their senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste—to find themselves again.

For parents and educators, Kit and the Missing Notebook also includes an author’s note with information about anxiety, managing emotions with kids, and a delicious soup recipe!

This picture book has cute, colorful illustrations, and it shows Kit the kangaroo adjusting to life after her family moves to a new home. She depends on her notebook to help her with her anxiety, but while she is meeting her new neighbors, she realizes that it has gone missing. She panics, and the story describes her racing thoughts and her physical feelings of anxiety. Kit’s new friends assure her that they’ll help her find it, and then an adult comes out of the house. This character checks on everyone, expresses concern about Kit, and invites Kit and her new friends into the house to help make soup.

Even though Kit is antsy at first, wanting to look for her notebook, she gradually calms down. The story describes the sensory details of the soup-making process, the characters’ breaths as they try to cool it down, and the comforting sensation of eating it. Later, Kit does find her notebook. However, it sustained damage from falling on a porcupine, and the story doesn’t even acknowledge this. This can just be a mismatch between what the authors wrote and what the illustrator depicted, but it creates serious plausibility issues for the anxious character to not react to this damage at all. I would be beside myself if I lost one of my journals and got it back with holes in it, and I’m an adult.

This didn’t seem realistic, and other parts of the story also raise questions for me. For example, many parents wouldn’t want their child going into a stranger’s home to prep and eat food with them, when the parents haven’t even met the neighbor yet, let alone vetted them and built trust with them. Also, even though Kit’s sensory experiences with the soup help her calm down, some parents may not be comfortable presenting food as a comfort to turn to when you feel anxious. Also, even though this is from a Christian publisher, there aren’t any references to God, and people who are expecting a faith-based book will be disappointed.

Still, I appreciate the intention behind this book, and it will be helpful for some families. As Chris and Lindsey Wheeler explain in the author’s note at the end, this book flows from their own parenting experience, and they talk about how sensory exercises, such as the one involving the soup, can help kids calm down. They share some parenting tips for dealing with child anxiety, and they include a soup recipe from a real-life neighbor. This is really sweet, and I appreciate their heart behind this. This book can definitely help parents better understand their children’s anxiety, and the descriptions of how Kit feels are spot-on. The illustrations from Carmen Saldaña Gutierrez are also really cute and endearing.

Kit and the Missing Notebook: A Book About Calming Anxiety will be helpful for some families, but won’t be the right fit for others. Some anxious kids may find the story distressing and confusing, since Kit spends all this time cooking and eating soup when she could have been looking for her notebook and resolving the problem, and the unacknowledged issue of the notebook getting damaged makes it difficult to suspend disbelief. Also, even though the book highlights a wholesome sense of community through preparing and eating food together, people with histories of emotional eating may not want to present anything food-related as a coping mechanism for their anxious child.