Kidlit Review: Puppy In My Head by Elise Gravel

Published by Harper

In my home, Elise Gravel is something of a celebrity. If I bring home a new book by Gravel, my son lights up and cheekily asks, “is this gonna make me laugh?” It started with “The Tickle Book”, more commonly known as A Potato on a Bike. Then came “the Gross Books” or The Spider, The Rat, The Slug, and (my personal favorite) The Fly. When we were ready for graphic novels, “The one with the funny birds” or Arlo and Pips was the obvious choice because I knew I could expect an interesting story interspersed with knowledge drops about crows (and people). Elise Gravel just understands how to connect with kids through words and art. Her style choice to add side notes, facts, and onomatopoeia into illustrations has my little one searching for more on each page. What more could I ask for when trying to build a love for reading in my son.

We’ve talked it to death, but 2020 right?! This last year – and a bit – has been a doozy. It continues to take its toll on so many of us. I was delighted to see another great book by Gravel, and this time with a focus on mindfulness.

Gravel illustrates anxiety through a mostly quiet but sometimes overly excited, scared and upset puppy named Ollie. When Ollie needs help calming down he learns to breathe, cuddle, and talk about his feelings.

“Sometimes, Ollie is all over the place. He gets EXCITED. Then I get excited, too. When he’s happy-excited, it’s fun. I feel like jumping around and dancing.

But it’s not fun when Ollie is too excited. That’s when he runs around in my head and makes too much NOISE.”

What I love most about this book is that Ollie– aka challenging thoughts – are positioned as the best friend. Gravel shares and illustrates useful and age-appropriate mindfulness strategies through story. We speak often about self-regulating emotions in our family and Gravel’s strategies registered easily and quickly. My little one was nodding along and recognizing strategies like: breathing, exercising, and talking about it.

“…But when that happens, I take out my magical leash… The leash is my breath…”

Gravel’s artwork is – as always – perfectly on point. Ollie’s facial expressions are exaggerated and totally hilarious. While pleasant to look at, these expressions really do help young children grasp the concept of managing big emotions. Puppy in my Head is a must have on the bookshelf of any child (or grownup) in your life that wants to make friends with their thoughts.

Buy the book!

Review by: Candice Suchocki Weir