By Author / Illustrator
Professor Steve Peters
Paperback / softback
Written by Professor Steve Peters, the author of The Chimp Paradox, this fab book is aimed at helping children to understand and manage their thoughts emotions and behaviours My Hidden Chimp is an easy to read book, complete with colourful illustrations, that encourages its reader to explore their thoughts and feelings through a series of child-friendly questions and straightforward activities. Although this is very clearly the 'children's version', with its colourful pictures and child friendly language, I think there would be far more benefit if used by an adult and child together. Expecting a young child to fully understand the concept of their 'inner chimp' is asking a lot of a young mind. However, these activities provide a great starting point for discussion and interaction between a close adult or parent and child, thereby increasing the likelihood that the child would grasp these concepts and understand their feelings and behaviour better. My Hidden Chimp focuses on the idea of our 'inner chimp' and the control it sometimes has over our feelings and behaviours; helping the reader to understand why they might feel the need to lie about something, or be mean to a friend or sibling, or to be worried or frightened. Following this, each short explanation is accompanied by a way to calm or quieten the chimp's poor behaviour, which in turn will help with our own behaviours and feelings. A great book for any parent, or anyone who works closely with children, something for everyone and most definitely worth a read. 176 pages / Ages 9-adult / Reviewed by Sam Phillips, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
I imagine the challenge to create a book about neuroscience which is aimed at children would not be an easy one and yet My Hidden Chimp does an excellent job of making a complex concept understandable and relatable. The concept behind My Hidden Chimp is that, if children were able to understand why they have particular emotions, they would develop better habits when dealing with them.
Based on scientific evidence, the book tells children what is going on inside their brains in a non-threatening way. You don't need to know anything about science to be able to grasp the messages of this guide. The pages within the book are colourful and not overly wordy. The illustrations show children with thoughts and faces which clearly reflect their feelings and which allow the children who read the book to feel that they are not alone - that other people have fears or get grumpy or tell lies.
There is nothing overwhelming about this book - it is broken down into impactful chunks which allow the reader to pause, digest and reflect on the key information. The reader is treated with respect and there is no dumbing down; the book exposes children to 'grown up concepts' but in a way that suggests 'I'm sure you can understand this'.
This could be read alongside an adult or read independently but should form the focus of a discussion and be part of an on-going focus on emotions and behaviour regulation. A strength of this book is that it includes the reader - written in the second person, it speaks directly to the reader and thus adopts a friendly feel. There are opportunities for the reader to consider their own emotions and behaviours, to jot down their observations and reflections and to take an active role in their behaviour management.
The concept that our brain has a chimp hiding inside it is one that will allow all readers to visualise and therefore control the part of our brains which make us behave in a certain way. What a great idea - to make a very abstract concept into something more tangible and less threatening. Another thing that I liked about my Hidden Chimp is the inclusion of scenarios which show the book's concepts in action. We see, for example, a child who has broken a cup but who has lied about it. We see, through simple but effective illustrations and thought bubbles, how the child realises that it was the chimp in her brain that caused her to tell a lie but that once she had made that realisation, she could make a more positive behavioural choice.
I think the book is a great tool for parents and educators. It sees behaviours as 'habits' and identifies ten positive and achievable habits that children should adopt in order to deal with real life situations. I found this book to be accessible, enjoyable and memorable. It is a book to dip in to and to return to. I am confident that it would have a positive effect upon readers who may need to develop their abilities to control their 'chimps' and to acquire positive habits. Also great for adults who may not always understand the reasoning behind undesirable habits. Now that I have read the child-friendly version, my appetite has been whetted and I would like to know more. Next stop, The Chimp Paradox!
176 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jo Clarke, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+