The Cold Little Voice
The Cold Little Voice
I have a cold little voice that follows me everywhere. And sometimes it perches on my shoulder, digs in its claws and whispers its cold little thoughts. …It’s the sneaky voice that says, “You’re going to look silly!” It’s the sly voice that whispers, “Don’t even try—you’re not good enough,” even though you are, and most of the time you know it.
If you haven’t read the above excerpt, then go back and do so because, from that beginning, the cold little voice just gets worse and worse, detailing every single thing that could possibly be wrong with the child. Among other behaviours, the child gets quieter, doesn’t laugh out loud and doesn’t act silly until finally the child becomes “small and still and grey”. Things are seemingly hopeless until another voice speaks up that says, “I’m better than it thinks I am”, and, at last readers see the light at the end of the tunnel. The child focuses on kindness and finding joy in the small things until the child has turned its cold, little voice into a “big, warm, kind voice” that speaks kind words and spreads its warmth to the other cold voices that are out there.
The Cold Little Voice is such a timely picture book in a world where we are constantly hearing about anxiety and mental health in children. While there are other picture books about anxiety and sadness, it is certainly a topic that can grow. This book has a pretty heavy start, and the number of things that are wrong with the child go on for pages. Consequently, while on the one hand the listing can feel a little excessive, it is likely a very real depiction. Chances are that everyone can identify with at least one of the faults that are listed, a situation that will make this book a very accessible read for children and adults alike, one which will spur on a lot of conversation. The illustrations are very descriptive and really show the progression the child goes through by using a lot of dark colours for the sad pages and then brightening right up when the child has escaped the cold voice. The Cold Little Voice is definitely a conversation starter and is useful for children suffering from mental illness as well as for educating others about what mental illness can look like.
Stephanie Johnson is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies Program from the University of Alberta and is the Director of Devon Public Library in Alberta.