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The strange and curious guide to trauma (Book review)

Hannah Milton is a GP, a mum, and a runner

Sally Donovan OBE is an adoptive parent as well as a writer, therapeutic-parenting trainer and general advocate for children exposed to childhood trauma. She has written three books about adoption and parenting, and this is her second book for children.

The book is aimed at 8–12-year-old children and explains how traumatic experiences can affect the brain and lead to altered feelings and behaviours in the future. The book is suitable for adopted children, as well as children who have experienced trauma from other events such as a serious illness, a car accident or living through a war.

Donovan uses a quirky story to illustrate the neuroscience of how trauma can affect a person’s reactions and how these reactions can become maladaptive when they are in a ‘safe’ environment in the future. There are some books for children about trauma that can be triggering because they are too graphic, but this book uses a slightly silly, traumatic incident to illustrate the points with gentle humour. There is a lovely, accepting chapter about why some carrots grow straight and perfect and others must grow around stones and search out nutrients. Wonky carrots have survived difficult circumstances, and no one would blame a carrot for that!

The book is aimed at 8–12-year-old children and explains how traumatic experiences can affect the brain and lead to altered feelings and behaviours in the future.

The book uses the characters Amy Amygdala, Adrian Adrenaline and Courtney Cortisol to explain in a simple way how the body can react immediately to danger, outside of our (slower) conscious control. It emphasises gently but repeatedly how this is not the fault of the child, how it is a superpower to understand how trauma has its effects on the brain. The book finishes positively with some ideas to help the child overcome their bodily and brain reactions when their ‘fright’ response is triggered.

The book is aimed at children so GPs could find it helpful to recommend it to carefully selected children and their families, where there have been traumatic experiences. But I would also recommend it for GPs to read themselves. It is a light, one hour read for an adult, but I think it will deepen understanding of the neuroscience of trauma and help GPs in their day-to-day consultations.

Featured book: Donovan S, The strange and curious guide to traumaJessica Kingsley Publishers (2022), Illustrated edition (Paperback), ISBN: 978-1787757479, RRP £12.99

Featured image by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

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