Book Review by DeeDee Ginns Gruenberg
Home should be a place where children feel safe, secure, protected and loved. While we all wish every home was a safe refuge, five million children are impacted by domestic violence every year. Common feelings among these innocent victims include feeling scared, helpless, ashamed, angry and guilty. They often feel as if they are to blame and without a supportive person in their life, the physical and psychological toll from the toxic stress they experience has lifelong repercussions.
“My Quiet Ship” was written for children experiencing parental conflict in their home. In this story, a young child models bravery and courage and the power of imagination.
“Whenever I hear the yelling, I run to that spot and become commander of the Quiet Ship.”
That “safe spot” is under his bed, where Quinn draws and uses his great imagination to take him and his cuddly plush animal crew, far, far away. They escape “from the sounds that hurt my ears and make my heart ache.” Beautiful illustrations help bring the story to life and make the reader feel a part of the empowering journey.
One night the yelling gets so intense, that
“it breaks the Quiet Ship. Quinn yells at his parents to stop fighting. When they ask why he’s under his bed, he eventually tells them “I am scared!”
Quinn is empowered; his parents’ realize how frightening it was for the child to listen to their arguments. I think this part of the story is important to explore with a child because it can be dangerous for a child to intervene when parents are fighting. It is incumbent upon us to help children create coping skills that will keep them safe! Managing the grownups who are fighting is NOT a part of the safety plan we create in our play therapy setting.
“My Quiet Ship” is an ideal bibliotherapy tool to help children feel empowered to cope with all kinds of situations that create intense emotions. It normalizes their experience and provides the distance they may need to talk about the situation.
I usually have clay available while reading to the child. After reading the story, children create their “Quiet Ship” using clay, sand or art.
In addition to using it for domestic violence, I find it has broad application when addressing anger and conflict as well. In my work I find using books like this one let the child know I am interested and that I will be able to “hold” their pain, frustration and other intense emotions.
Hallee Adelman is the author of “My Quiet Ship.” Pictures are by Sonia Sanchez.
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