The Pain in my Chest by Áine Murray, illustrated by Bronagh Lee. I was immediately drawn to this book by its title and the eye-catching front cover (yes I judged a book by its cover). I read this book initially to myself, my son (12), then to a junior class (infants to second) and finally to a senior class (third to sixth). I teach in a multi-grade setting.
The book tells the story of a young girl using a timeline from the age of five years up to her eighth birthday, who experiences what she doesn’t realise is anxiety. Throughout the various scenarios during the timeline in her story, her feeling of ‘anxiety’ is described by her as “A Pain in my Chest” The scenarios are realistic and age appropriate to where she is in her timeline. They give opportunity for discussion and scope for making connections.
The story drew silence amongst anyone I read it to as there was a sense of sadness throughout and an opportunity for empathy from the audience for the young character. However the final message in the story brings a sense of relief to the audience and hope for the character. I was glad I had read the book a few times myself before reading it to an audience as the rhythm of the story took a bit of getting used to and some rhyming parts needed re-reading to grasp them fully.
On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised that both classes, junior and senior, were engrossed in the story. As the reader, I enjoyed the repetitive line “With a Pain in My Chest” as the pupils joined in each time or finished the sentence for me. As a teacher, the story gave plenty of scope to develop a lesson plan around the theme. Although the theme of the story was quickly picked up by the older pupils, I think this book, due to the ages in the timeline is best suited to an audience of infants to second class.
The theme is topical and important in today’s society and so I feel that it is a book that needs to be explored more than once with a class/child. For that reason it would be best read on a few occasions in order for the message it portrays to get across fully. There is a lot in the book to take in. The story is beautifully illustrated and encompasses a diversity of children. The pictures also give ample opportunities for discussion and hypothesising.
The ‘monster’ that is anxiety is portrayed in every scenario and lurks in the background, finally exiting the story in the end. This book would provide an excellent resource in any school and for any parent who wants to teach their child(ren) about anxiety. Again I think it is a book that needs to be read many times so its message lingers for the audience. I would give the book 8 out of 10 and happily recommend it to many.
By Laura Sweeney Egan, Conahy NS, Co. Kilkenny.
“The Pain in my Chest” by Áine Murray and illustrated by Bronagh Lee, published by O’Brien Press, is on sale now for €9.99 (P/B).
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher, O’Brien Press, free of charge to Seomra Ranga for the purposes of this review