The human brain is a powerful and interesting thing. I took a philosophy of the mind course in college, and the idea of thinking about how and why we “think” blew my mind! (I think…. The whole class made me reconsider what we define as the mind… or thinking….). It’s hard for us to understand how our brain works and why we think the things we think. In an effort to open a dialogue with kids about untangling confusing thoughts and uncluttering their minds, author Greg McGoon created the Tanglelows.
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Traveling the Twisting Troubling Tanglelows’ Trail was written by Greg McGoon and illustrated by Jessa Orr. This book is the first in a series, which is attempting to open a dialogue between parents and kids about the confusing tangles in our brains. The Tanglelows are creatures which live in your mind. They tangle your thoughts up and create doubts and worries. The Tanglelows feed on unkind words and negative emotions. If these things are left to fester in your mind, their path becomes even more twisted and hard to untangle. The story is told in a nice rhyming style which makes the text flow nicely despite the twists and turns of the Tanglelows.
The advice which the author provides to the reader is to be true to yourself, be honest and be kind. This helps you to untangle the Tanglelows’ path and conquer the negative feelings they may be trying to trick you with. The vibrant illustrations grow darker and more intense as the Tanglelows weave their negative pathways. However, as kindness and love for yourself begins to grow, the illustrations reflect this battle against the darkness and negativity in a way that makes it easy to visualize the battles we sometimes fight in our own minds.
I had the opportunity to talk to the author about his intentions for the book, as well as his hopes for the series.
What inspired you to create the Tanglelows?
The Tanglelows feel more like a discovery than a creation. I remember the moment they came to me. I was sitting on the subway in NY back in 2014. My mind was spinning as though something was twisting all my worries and doubts into an impenetrable knot. I was writing down my random thoughts. And in that tangled moment, feeling rather low, the Tanglelows came to be.
I’ve worked with children in various creative arts capacities, from theatre to visual art. Self-expression is crucial for that. It became important for me to be able to interpret how a child is feeling, and what will help motivate them. I often remind myself of the Tanglelows from day to day, to feel less overwhelmed. I think children deserve to be encouraged, respected and challenged in what they read and in return possibly retain a message that will carry with them as they grow.
What dialogue do you hope the Tanglelows will create between parents and kids?
Discussing feelings can be a challenging task. Learning to develop a sense of self is challenging as well. Social media is becoming more prevalent among children, hindering social interaction. When children reach the age where they are engaging with the internet and social media, it is crucial they have the tools to recognize themselves and form a sense of self. I hope the Tanglelows provide a tangible way for children to feel less threatened by their thoughts.
Parents or even teachers can use the Tanglelows to check in with their children.
How are the Tanglelows behaving today? Are they creating worries or doubts, maybe even fears? I hope that if children become comfortable discussing their feelings at an early age they can grow into well-adjusted adults.
Emotional intelligence and wellbeing is often neglected and rarely taught, and it is easy to see the repercussions of that with the rise of social media. Unkind behavior is rampant online. The destructive nature of bullying impedes the effectiveness of many schools. Any way for children to help articulate how they feel could curb some of the acting out behavior.
There are countless factors that impact the childhood experience. Finding balance and taking a moment to acknowledge all the clutter in your mind and where it is coming from has the potential to strengthen bonds between adult and child. No one is immune to the clutter, so how are we going to approach it? And how can we allow children to feel less overwhelmed? The Tanglelows can be another added voice in understanding and insight.
What can you tell us about the next book in the series?
In the next book, you are introduced to two types of Tanglelows. It builds on the first, allowing you to go further into the mind to recognize how these competing forces create a bit of chaos. Specifying between Tanglelows has the potential to further open up discussions about bullying and friendship.
Use the Tanglelows to talk to your kids and have some fun!
By ensuring an open dialogue with your kids, you can help them to fend off negative feelings which can fester and develop deeper issues. There are many ways that you can use this book to open a dialogue between you and your kids about messy thoughts and how to deal with them.
Tape on the Floor – This is a fun game inspired by the Tanglelows twisted trails. Use tape to create different twisting and turning pathways across the floor. Have kids start at one end and try to follow their trail to the end. You can criss cross paths to make it more complicated, or have them spin around a few times before starting down the path. You could also create trails with different colors of tape and have kids follow their color trail to the end.
Brain Dump – This is an activity that is good for kids and adults alike. Sometimes our brains can get so cluttered that it makes it hard to think straight (thank you Tanglelows!). Use a simple web or a blank piece of paper and set a timer for 1-5 minutes. When the timer starts, just start writing down everything in your head. Don’t think about what you are writing, just write. This helps you to clear everything out so you can see your thoughts on paper.
Defeat the Tanglelows by loving yourself!
Things to Love About Yourself – This is a great way to combat the twisted Tanglelows for kids. When they trick us into thinking that we aren’t good enough, the best way to fight them is to remind ourselves why we are great. Encourage kids to keep a running list of things they love about themselves and things that they are good at. Remind them to talk to you, or to check this list when they are doubting themselves.
Conversation Space – Create a comfortable space in your home where you and your kids can go to have important conversations. By creating a designated space away from other family members and daily chaos, you can create a quiet area where they know they can tell you anything. It may help them to open up to you about what’s going on in their heads.
Traveling the Twisting Troubling Tanglelows’ Trail is a great book for talking to your kids about their thoughts and what goes on in their heads. Having an open dialogue with your kids is so important. Let the Tanglelows help you to get the ball rolling!