Steps and Stones
Written by Gail Silver
Illustrated by Christiane Kromer
40 pages • Published 2011 (Plum Blossom)
Recommended Age Range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Publisher's Summary: When Anh’s friends leave and he feels left out at school, his anger shows up to keep him company. Anh the protagonist of Gail Silver’s previous book Anh’s Anger, is a typical and easy-to-relate-to elementary school-age boy. His anger, personified as a red hairy impulsive creature, teaches him some valuable lessons about not getting carried away by his strong emotions. By counting his steps and coordinating them with his breathing Anh is able to slow down and take his anger for a peaceful and magically transformative walk.
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: This sequel to Anh’s Anger tells the story of how Anh copes with an incident of rejection by his friends at recess. The story teaches the skill of a walking meditation (i.e., walking slowly, breathing in with one step and out on the next, while counting each step) as a way to soothe one’s anger. It’s a great tool for children to have in their “emotion regulation toolkit” because it doesn’t require any special equipment. A child can use this skill on a walk to the bathroom, to a drinking fountain, or around a backyard–anywhere that they can take a couple dozen steps.
Would a child like it? Many children will relate to this book and find Anger and Anh’s solution to be engaging and intriguing.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness
Tone: Soothing, peaceful
Story Quality: This sequel to Anh’s Anger teaches children another skill they can use to “[take] good care” of their anger. Anh is a relatable, authentic-seeming character, and his anger is complex and understandable. This story has a meditative, peaceful feel with a reassuring ending (and a touch of humor).
Illustrations: Beautiful, complex illustrations mixing paint and collage. Anh’s Anger is pictured as a red fuzzy creature. I particularly love the illustrations of the ground–as Anh walks, we see the roots and ant nests beneath the surface. It’s a great visual metaphor for the richness of grounding oneself.
Representation: Anh is an Asian boy (perhaps Vietnamese based on his name). He has two best friends who are White boys (Sam and Charlie), and he makes a new friend who is a White girl (Sarah). The story takes place at recess at a school with a playground and field.
Psychological Practices: Anh’s friends ditch him at recess and tell him that the activity he was looking forward to playing with them (digging) is for babies. He is understandably devastated and cries by himself until Anger shows up and excitedly suggests that they throw a kickball at his friend’s head. Anh suggests they should slow down, and they begin a walking meditation: walking slowly, breathing in with one step and out on the next, while counting each step. Anh notices the breeze on his back, and he starts to feel calmer. His Anger stops to take a rest and then disappears. Twenty steps later, Anh is feeling calm again. Sarah notices him and shows him a cool rock she found in the dirt, and then his friends Sam and Charlie come over to join. A walking meditation like this is very doable in an environment like recess or a birthday party where a child needs to manage their anger in a less conspicuous way. Going for a quick walk (to the drinking fountain, to the bathroom, around a field) is a great opportunity for a reset.
Concerns: Anh’s friends don’t apologize for saying rude things to Anh. In the end, their actions suggest that they didn’t mean it and that Anh has forgiven them, but I always appreciate a good apology. I might continue this story by prompting a child to think about what they might say if they were Anh or Anh’s friends in order to resolve the conflict a little more thoroughly.
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