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Viewpoints from the Journal

Viewpoints from the interdisciplinary leaders in optimal developmental and behavioral health for all children.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

How Koala's deal with anxiety. A children's book review.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors​​​ (A Maud the Koala Story)

By J.E. Morris


Maud the Koala is going to see her doctor. But she’s a little nervous. What’s there to be nervous about? Her doctor is nice. The office is pretty. She gets to see cool gadgets. And there are fish! She can do this. She’ll get a sticker too. And if the fish can be there, then she can too. After all...fish are not afraid of doctors.


Author Jennifer Morris takes us through the calmly terrifying experience of our childhood well child check-ups. The beginning of this comic book-style reader has us joining Maud and her mother as they enter the doctor’s office. The illustration style reminds one of Sunday morning newspaper comic-strips; clear outlines, simple colors, and few extraneous details. Yet the emotions and feelings of each character are plain to see (providing a great excuse to talk about feelings, perspectives, facial expressions and body language). Using description sparingly and primarily letting the pictures do the talking, Morris emphasizes the mundaneness of the doctors visits.  A few bits of conversation are used to punctuate the unsettled emotions that arise with a trip to the doctor. Then when the real object of contention appears (hint: it’s pronounced “vax-i-nay-shun”), Morris launches into more vivid descriptions accompanied by full page illustrations to quickly immerse us into what is happening. But the trick is, you don’t know it’s happening. Before you know it, the book is over, and we’re simply left with a wonderful shared lesson about getting through daily experiences that are just out of our comfort zone. In a few pages, we’ve learned about distraction and visualization, two common and easy relaxation techniques for dealing with anxiety. All done with a minimal amount of lecture. As my high school English teacher used to say, “show me, don’t tell me.” Morris certainly does this marvelously.  This is a book that helps us with our fears, without being a book about our fears. And for those of you verbal learners who just have to have the instructions, there’s a nice debriefing summary at the end that explains what this was all about. Use this book as a bedtime story, a social story, or just as an excuse to spend some time together with your child.


—Jeffrey H. Yang, M.D.


Maud the Koala_FANAOD Cover Hi-Res.jpg

Publisher: Penguin-Random House
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 – 8
Grade Level: 1st - 2nd (Flesch–Kincaid)