Little Cheetah’s Shadow
Little Cheetah’s Shadow
Little Shadow hadn’t done it on purpose.
“That hurt a lot,” said Little Cheetah, who now understood
why Little Shadow had been upset.
“I didn’t even think about it!” said Little Shadow, who now
understood why Little Cheetah might not have noticed either.”
Little Cheetah’s Shadow is a beautiful picture book that uses simple, child-friendly language to address aspects of mental health and social-emotional learning while also normalizing the various emotions people may feel on a daily basis. This story begins with a confused and seemingly defeated cheetah that has been searching high and low for his lost shadow. Little Cheetah asks a passerby firefly if it had seen his shadow, and, to the Cheetah’s surprise, the firefly advises him that it is above them in the tree! Once they finally unite, Little Cheetah and Little Shadow take turns expressing the different feelings and emotions, including sadness and hurt, they have felt, and continue to feel, as a result of the other’s actions. Throughout various conversations on their journey home, they learn to see things from each other’s perspective and to be mindful of one another’s feelings.
With Marianne Dubuc’s minimal text on the very first few pages, I was very surprised to see how much Dubuc had accomplished already. By opening with such a straightforward and accessible storyline and pairing it with clear illustrations surrounding Little Cheetah’s body language and facial expressions, Dubuc immediately set her readers up to begin thinking about the various emotions Little Cheetah may be experiencing as a result of not being able to locate his shadow. By just the second page of the book, readers have already been made aware that Little Cheetah is internally struggling with something, thereby exposing them to an array of emotions. This scenario encourages readers to begin making connections to their personal lives and times when they, too, have felt down.
To further this successful approach towards exposing young readers to emotions and mental health challenges, Dubuc also uses Little Cheetah’s interaction with a friend, the firefly, to normalize asking for help when experiencing a situation that leaves you puzzled or feeling down. Not only was the firefly highly approachable, friendly, and eager to help, but it was obvious that Little Cheetah didn’t hold back in communicating what he needed from his friend. This simple interaction was a fabulous and powerful way of showing young children not only that it is okay to ask for help, but also how to ask for help. Learning how to approach mental health conversations with others can often be most challenging and, unfortunately, prevents a lot of conversations from being had.
Lastly, Dubuc strategically exposes younger readers to different points of view throughout the story’s entirety in a successful attempt to evoke empathy. Readers can empathize with both characters and the emotions they are feeling throughout different parts of the book, and, by practicing these skills, readers can begin to exercise compassion for the people they encounter in their personal lives.
Little Cheetah’s Shadow is high on my recommendation list for young readers or any adult that is looking for a resource to assist them in approaching the challenging, yet important, conversations surrounding mental health, emotions, and social-emotional learning. This easy-to-follow story allows readers to make connections to real life situations and the people that they encounter in their own life. Most importantly, it gives them the knowledge they may need to begin recognizing how they’re feeling and when they, or others around them, may need help.
Melissa Toby completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, B.C.) in Spring 2018, her Bachelor of Education at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, B.C.) in Fall 2019, and is currently working as a grade one teacher in British Columbia’s Langley School District.