(story)time: In My Heart, A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek (and Inside Out, the movie)

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I’ve had this post started for awhile, and thought I might talk about the book while also talking about the various emotions on display during any typical day with my girls, particularly the youngest one. But I kept pushing it off for one reason or another, and I’m so glad that I did because now I also want to talk about the new movie Inside Out in tandem with this book.

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I saw In My Heart, A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek a few months ago at the bookstore when I was looking for a gift, and I picked it up to give to F. I feel like we are always talking about (or reacting to) her strong emotions. In those early years – the toddler and preschool years – it felt like we were constantly reminding her to “use her words” in an effort to get her to express herself clearly to us instead of simply flying off the handle.

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She has zero difficulties expressing herself through her words anymore. She can very quickly and effectively articulate whatever she is feeling, particularly when she perceives some type of injustice. Since she’s five (and the younger sister, and the baby in the house), that perception of injustice is usually about her. In fact, most things really are about her. But we’re also slowly starting to see the development of awareness of how others might be feeling. That doesn’t always mean that she’s willing to put the feelings or needs of others before her own pressing needs and fragile feelings, but recognition of them is a great first step. And on more than one occasion – and more frequently as time goes by – we can clearly see that she is able to observe something happening to someone else and then empathize with them and show us that she’s thinking about the way they must be feeling. This is something extraordinary to witness, particularly in a child that is still so centrally focused.

I really like In My Heart – I enjoy reading it with F, and expanding on the conversation with each page. She can very easily relate to each emotion described within the book, and her face and her voice change as she reads along with me. I think this book is such a great starting place for the discussion of emotions with children.


But I’m also going to recommend a movie in this reading post!

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Last Friday, on opening night, the four of us went to see the movie Inside Out. M sent me a text in the middle of the day about the movie, suggesting that we see it that very night. I knew a little bit about it from various pieces on NPR, and I was excited about the entire cast of the film. But outside of the general premise of the movie – that the main characters are emotional components of the brain – I knew very little else.

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a movie so much. Not just the movie itself, but watching my kids watch the movie. Or watching my husband watch the movie. Or how we all just kept laughing and looking at one another as we watched it. Or how F was standing up in front of her seat at the end with tears filling her eyes and spilling down her cheeks. At the end of the show we asked her if she was crying, and she completely owned it. “I am, and now I want to sit right here and watch it all over again.”

On so many levels, this movie really is a true gem. We (M and I) naturally related to it as parents of girls – especially since one is eleven going on twelve. But the way this movie looks at emotions is so very smart and clever and hilarious and spot on that it is truly a movie for everyone. I’ve been part of several discussions over the past few months on the subject of emotions – some on the idea of happiness (or joy), and if those states are achievable (or desirable) goals, or if they can reside alongside with what we often think as the opposite emotion, sadness. And what if sadness is really depression, and it’s not something that you can snap out of or wish (or will) away? And what does intense grief do to these emotions – what happens when the core memories we’ve formed with loved ones, memories that used to be joyful, feel so full of sadness that they threaten to permanently change who we are, to ourselves and to others? How does a family continue when those memories are halted abruptly? Can there ever be enough of those golden orbs? Are we spinning enough of them now with our own girls?

Both the book and the movie assign colors to emotions. This is not a radical concept – it’s been done for ages. In the book, those colors are neatly assigned to one full page spread; in the movie they stand alone too… for awhile. But that’s where I’ll stop with this discussion and let you immediately look up the movie times at your favorite cineplex and buy your tickets. And after you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Find this title at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!

***And enjoy your movie at your favorite theatre – we LOVE this one!

4 Responses to (story)time: In My Heart, A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek (and Inside Out, the movie)

  1. I loved this movie, too! I loved how the movie addressed the grief/sadness part of memories. When my dad died – it was like all my happy childhood memories had been touched by Sadness, and I worried that they would be clouded forever. Let’s just say I cried a lot during that montage in Inside Out. Can’t wait to check out In My Heart – will definitely put it on the list for future books!

    • I thought about that as well during the movie – perhaps because I have so many friends and readers here who have lost a parent, usually their father. The movie is so skillful in the way it talks about the complexity of emotion and memory – I’m still really blown away by that.

      I’m sorry you lost your father so young. I know this past weekend was probably really tough on you, and I’m sure that having that darling little boy reminds you daily on how much he is missing (and is missed).

      • Thank you. Fortunately Father’s Days have gotten easier now that I have an additional father to celebrate!

  2. I want to take Finn to see the movie and even more so after reading this. I think one of the most important things we can do is to try to teach and practice empathy. Seems like your girls have great role models for this.
    Caroline recently posted…Father’s Day DiscoveryMy Profile

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