The April NAMI Ramsey Book Club meeting featured guest author Jane O’Reilly and her middle grade book, the Notations Of Cooper Cameron.
This novel is written from the point of view of a very bright but troubled young boy, Cooper, who just completed 5th grade and lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His condition became apparent two years earlier around the time of his witnessing his beloved grandfather’s bizarre death. It is now two years after this traumatic death and the family is staying for the summer up at Grandpa Mill's old cabin.
The book club had a lively discussion with author Jane O’Reilly, who was inspired to craft Cooper as a character based on her older sister. Growing up, the author’s sister experienced OCD and grew up to be the editor of the Star Tribune Travel section for over 30 years, traveling all over the world. Originally intended to be a picture book, Jane O’Reilly’s novel was also inspired by an essay her sister wrote, entitled, “Fire Child,” that provided insight into her sister’s early childhood OCD experience that never fully left her.
Participants discussed having family members who live with mental illnesses, and many people could relate to the stress, worry, and care they feel when someone they love is exhibiting symptoms.
AUTHORS: Peter Jarnstrom & Debbi Gunsell
Peter serves as an advisor to the NAMI Ramsey County board and Debbi serves as a director. Debbi is also a member of the Book Club Planning Committee and hosted this month's discussion.
Many things can lead to a mental health crisis.
Increased stress, changes in family situations, bullying at school, substance use, and trauma or violence at home or in the community may trigger the sudden appearance of or an increase in behaviors or symptoms that lead to a mental health crisis.
Medical illnesses can also affect a child’s mental health and can lead to a crisis. These issues are difficult for everyone, but they can be more difficult for someone living with a mental illness. This is especially true for a child who probably doesn’t understand their illness and its symptoms.
Here are some examples of situations or stressors that can trigger a mental health crisis:
Learn more by reading NAMI Minnesota's "Mental Health Crisis Planning for Children" booklet.
Content taken from NAMI Minnesota's "Mental Health Crisis Planning for Children" booklet.
The NAMI Ramsey County Book Club got off to a rousing start by featuring two excellent children’s books about mental illnesses, one by a Minnesota author who also works at NAMI Minnesota and the other by an author who lives in Great Britain.
The March 18 virtual event entailed reading both books out loud, followed by group discussion led by Carrie Roach. Carrie is a member of both NAMI Ramsey County and national NAMI boards.
Kate Bartlein, our guest author, read her lovely book Lennon Bruce Fire Breather and described how Lennon Bruce, a child turned dragon, learned to calm down by using a breathing technique his mother taught him.
Bartlein showed us how to use fire breathing: hold out five fingers as "trees" and breathe fire at each extended finger by slowly breathing in through our noses and out through our mouths, putting a finger down after each breath. She explained that it is easier for younger kids to show anger, which may be covering up other feelings, such as fear. She reminded us that this breathing exercise should be practiced before it's actually needed. This is her first book and thankfully she plans to write more. Besides being an author, Kate leads some of NAMI Minnesota’s parent education and support programs.
The second book was The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones and was another delightful book. In the book, the princess gradually becomes enveloped in a deep fog and is only helped back to "normal" after receiving help from several people, including a doctor who gives her a potion and a wise woman who encourages the princess to talk to people about the fog.
Both books were educational and generated good discussion, including what is "normal," the blame parents often feel when their child is ill, and remembering the time when children weren’t supposed to have mental illnesses.
Join us for our next book club event on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. where we will discuss a middle-grade book, The Notations of Cooper Cameron by Jane O’Reilly. The author will be joining to read passages and answer questions. The book is available in libraries.
Author: Mindy greiling
Mindy was a state representative for 20 years, served on state and national NAMI boards, and is the author of Fix What You Can, a book about her legislative work and her family's story about her son's schizo-affective disorder. She is the board president of NAMI Ramsey County.