George the (Almost) Fearless Mouse is a gentle, positive and rewarding tale written to help children overcome a fear of the dark, while making life easier and less anxious for the many youngsters experiencing high sensitivity.
Around 1 in 5 of all children are thought to be an HSC (Highly Sensitive Child). That's over 150,000 born in the UK every year alone; and it affects children across the globe. But high sensitivity is still largely unrecognised, which is a source of considerable anguish to many youngsters.
The mishandling and misunderstanding of high sensitivity during childhood causes distress and anxiety and often leads to emotional problems later in life . Which is where George comes in! He's here to help make life less challenging for children and to raise awareness of high sensitivity.
George is an HSC (or an HSM ... Highly Sensitive Mouse ... to be precise). Thanks to George’s unique way of looking at the world, he is able to help his siblings overcome their fear of the dark. In turn, they remind him of the positives of his sensitivity, which makes him such a marvellous and caring mouse.
The book includes a brief introduction by eminent psychiatrist and author Dr Elaine Aron and a link to her website where parents can find out if their own child is highly sensitive and how to gather further support and assistance.
My daughter Seraphina is one of the 1 in 5 children considered a Highly Sensitive Child. Like many parents, I learned this by chance.
Statistics often feel hollow and meaningless, until they enter your own home. Seraphina had always been emotional. Even as a toddler she'd burst into tears at the soft hum of a helicopter in the distance or sob uncontrollably because of the seam in a sock. As a first time parent my instinct was that I was at fault, that I'd somehow broken my baby girl. It was the worst and most helpless feeling in the world.
The distress reached tipping point when she developed a profound fear of the dark. Not just when the light was switched off at bedtime, but of every dark space; even the gloom behind a missing ceiling tile caused hysteria. Professional advice revealed that I had been doing pretty much everything wrong!
My first instinct had been to tell her that she was just “being silly” and that there was nothing to be afraid of, but I discovered that this was particularly damaging (and, I learned, a phrase parents shouldn't use), because it made her less inclined to communicate honestly with me, not just now but throughout her life.
Meanwhile, telling her that big, strong, brave daddy (I’m absolutely none of those things but hopefully it's a few years before she discovers that particular disappointment!) would always protect her from the monsters was just making her believe that there really WERE monsters and INCREASING her fear of the dark.
The discovery that I was making mistake after mistake made me feel like a blundering, hopeless dad and the only thing that made it marginally better was learning that most parents were doing exactly the same!
It was here that I was handed a book. Parents are handed books all the time. Usually they're books on parenting and invariably we don’t find time to read them because, well because we're too busy parenting! I was assured this book would help Seraphina.
The book was Dr Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Child and (as melodramatic as it may sound) it was life-changing. Through the HSC I discovered that I wasn't alone and that with a little knowledge and understanding I could make the world a less overwhelming place for Seraphina. However, I also realised that on a daily basis the biggest cause of anxiety and upset to Seraphina (and other HSCs) was those who had never heard of the term, whether friends, family or even teachers . It was a desire to help my daughter and the huge numbers of children just like her (and to ensure those children don't endure unnecessary emotional distress) that brought George to life.
15-20% of children are an HSC. And every HSC becomes an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person – because HSCs always grow into HSPs). Unless you live on a deserted island, you know one, probably more. The brains of HSCs are wired differently making them hypersensitive to their environment, both physically and emotionally. Things like bright lights, coarse fabrics and loud noises are kryoptonite to HSCs. They’re also more affected by things like allergies, headaches and nightmares.
More concerningly, they’re much more likely to become shy, anxious or depressed, especially if they're made to feel isolated because of feeling different, which is largely inevitable when those around them don't understand or appreciate that what they are feeling is very, very real. From the moment Seraphina entered school, she felt different.
HSCs are especially empathetic and it was common for Seraphina to cry at school not because she was unhappy or hurt, but because another child was upset. Because no one around her understood high sensitivity, this simply aroused confusion. Highly Sensitive Children are also popular targets for bullies because of their emotional vulnerability, being especially sensitive to criticism or teasing.
Because their behaviour can sometimes be misunderstood (as poor behaviour or boundary testing) adults often deal with their idiosyncracies in a destructive way (as I myself initially did, by regularly telling her to stop being silly). Since HSCs are generally more distressed by conflict or unfairness, the negative impact upon their emotional wellbeing is profound.
Hopefully you’ll now understand why George is here. He’s here to help all children with a fear of the dark, but also to make more people aware of high sensitivity and to help HSCs and the parents of HSCs (and anyone who doesn’t know they have an HSC but may find out soon!)
Why a book about a fear of the dark, you might ask?
Firstly, it's the issue that led to my discovery of the HSC. Secondly, it's an issue that affects all children and, to raise awareness of High Sensitivity, it's important that George should be read and enjoyed by all. Only then will the term HSC become demystified; and less emotional distress and long term harm caused to a LOT of children.
If you would like to find out if your or someone else’s child is an HSC, there’s a simple test on Dr Elaine Aron’s website here:
For 4 or 5 years, a night has rarely passed by when I haven't sat and read a picture book with one of my children. Picture books are an integral part of my life. Like most parents I have those that I enjoy reading time and time again.
I was determined George would be a book that both children and parents would enjoy. Integral to this was finding the right artist, someone who not only understood George and understood what I was trying to do, but also had a unique and engaging style that captured everything George was about and could help create the kind of visual style that I enjoy, as do my children. I looked at a lot of illustrators and a lot of work, but when I met Kristi I knew I’d found the perfect artist.
Kristi has this incredible ability to get inside the head of a child and really bowled me over with her creativity. Numerous times she would take my rather literal suggestions for illustrations and turn them into something completely unique, exactly what I wanted for George.
We are eager to get George the (Almost) Fearless Mouse out into the world, so every penny is going into an initial print run to be donated to schools and libraries, with all other donations to cover costs for postage, perks (and the percentage given to Crowdfunder).
We believe in George and are looking to print enough books to get free copies into schools and libraries everywhere, as well as your homes.
This is just the start for George. We want to get as many copies out into the world as possible as we help children and parents to sleep better at night and to increase knowledge and awareness of HSC so that the confidence, positivity and self esteem of countless children (and a certain little mouse) can be assured.
We already have our next book planned so hopefully it’s only the beginning of a wonderful journey for George the (Almost) Fearless Mouse.