Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital Providence, RI
This book is the second edition of Harry the Hypno-potamus: Metaphorical Tales for the Treatment of Children in which the author, a pediatric nurse practitioner and Approved Consultant in Clinical Hypnosis, demonstrates how hypnosis can empower children to successfully cope with a variety of physical and emotional issues. This volume includes 35 new stories and uses creative animal characters to illustrate common childhood problems, such as fears, habits, pain, anger, and sadness. Through each metaphorical tale, the author aims to empower children to use imagination to take control over experiences and to “learn what you didn't know you knew and control what you didn't know you could.”
Readers will become familiar with Harry, the hippopotamus at the Ashland Zoo, who believes that everyone can take control of problems by learning the power of imagination. Harry motivates his friends to see Dr. Dan, the zoo's veterinarian skilled in hypnosis, who in turn helps teach each animal different empowering, relaxing, and self-regulatory skills. Readers will meet animals like worried Accaria Octopus and angry Kenzie Kangaroo as well as a stork who won't swallow pills and a lion with stomach pain. The stories culminate in a party scene where all of the animals celebrate everything they have accomplished using self-empowerment and hypnotic strategies.
The book is clearly organized with a table of contents where readers can easily find stories by problem type and character name. The “Clinical Section” provides an overview and rationale for hypnosis and metaphorical approaches geared toward adults preparing to read the stories with children. The author describes main categories addressed (i.e., anxiety, habits, pain, and other hypnosis uses) and the application of hypnotic strategies. Before the stories, a helpful “Guide to Using the Tales” is included with a brief synopsis of each character and story, highlighting the main themes and skills. A reference section follows, with short descriptions of books and videotapes, and then a brief hypnosis information page for parents quickly reviews what hypnosis and hypnotherapy are, the risks, and the rationale for using them.
Among the strengths of this book is its use of creativity, from the imaginative stories filled with interesting animal facts to the abundant, colorful illustrations. The presentation is child-friendly and engaging, with tales 2 to 3 pages long. Another strength is the language that weaves the theme of hypnosis through each story. Key phrases, such as “use your imagination to help yourself,” “daydream on purpose,” and “become the boss of your [problem],” are repeated throughout, which serve to remind readers of what the animals, and themselves, are learning. The stories begin with an introductory tale about hypnosis, and then helpful skills to relax and distract oneself are embedded throughout the rest of the tales and illustrated through Dr. Dan's hypnotic scripts.
Key concepts are exemplified in the stories so that children can understand how to use the tools to take charge of one's problems. However, this book would be enhanced by more discussion of hypnotic terminology in the section for parents. An explanation of induction, deepening, inner advisor, diaphragmatic breathing, and ego-strengthening, all terms used throughout the “Guide to Using the Tales,” would serve to provide parents with a solid framework from which to understand the concepts illustrated. In addition, while children will have little difficulty with the tales, the character names and animal choices may present a challenge. The author creatively and respectfully incorporates the names of those who have influenced her work into the creation of the characters; however, the names are not as child-like or intuitive as one would expect, and there are a number of animals with whom children may not be familiar (e.g., Moshe the Happy Hoatzin and Akira Okapi).
Overall, this is a creative and helpful resource for children dealing with a variety of physical and emotional problems. The metaphorical tales and engaging characters provide opportunities for children to immerse themselves and find relevance in stories, ultimately learning how minds can be powerful tools. This book provides a wonderful framework for parents and professionals to foster children's imagination and help them create their own stories that may enhance their self-confidence and sense of empowerment to cope effectively and be active participants in their own healing process.
The author declares no conflict of interest.
Rebecca S. Laptook, PhD
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University
Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children's Hospital