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Eli the Bipolar Bear Review by Amber Smith

Sharon Bracken
Child Hero Publishing

Talking About Mental Health with Young Children Through Picture Books

Mental health is a subject we strive to keep out in the open. Several members of our family have suffered with mental health struggles. As a teen, I silently suffered with a bout of depression myself. That is why mental heathcare and awareness are near to my heart.

Knowing our family’s history, we are always searching for ways to communicate with our children about their mental health. We talk about how we are feeling on a regular basis, treating our mental health with as much care and acknowledgment as our physical health.

As a family, we talk about the things we CAN do to help us feel better, like having a good diet, getting exercise and taking our vitamins. We also talk about the fact that there are things you cannot do for your body like create chemicals that are not being made in your body. We talk about how a there are times a person cannot make themselves feel better or self-regulate their behaviors. Sometimes people need help. I want my kids to know it is ok to ask for help if they ever feel like they need it.

Little Eli Needed Help

Eli the BiPolar Bear, at the surface is a cute picture book, but it offers an open window to talk about emotions in a meaningful way. We welcomed reading about little Eli to help us talk about a family members experience. After suffering for many years with bipolar disorder they are doing well on medication, just like the little bear in the story. Eli helps parents and caregiver introduce a difficult to explain topic. The book offers a friendly and relatable cast of characters for our children to gain a deeper understanding of what bipolar disorder looks like.

In this large format, hard cover, picture book; Eli’s friends, teachers, and Polar Bear family are all helping Eli navigate his emotions. Eli is an unhappy bear. He can be sweet and a good friend, but Eli can also suddenly get angry or sad, mad or yell. After years of seeing Eli have trouble balancing his emotions the bear family decides to seek help.

With counsel from the Wise Old Bear, Eli learns that there are other bears like him. Using explanations simple enough for a child to understand the Wise Bear explains that in some bears parts of their brains don’t work well together with other parts. This causes trouble with their moods. Bears like Eli have trouble in school, at home and even with their friends.

Everyone wants to see Eli able to enjoy school and his friends. By eating his special tasty fish and regular talks with the Wise Old Bear, Eli is able to experience emotions that are appropriate and no longer out of control. With help from the Wise Old Bear, Eli discovers that he likes how he now feels, too. The book ends sweetly with Eli grinning with his playmates from his hockey team.

Having Ongoing Discussions About Mental Health

If you know a child or family member that is suffering with bipolar or any other mental health disorder, this book is a great way to open discussion about the topic. The story gently shares important messages Children need to hear; such as, you can’t catch a mental disorder from a person like the other sickness, others aren’t in danger, and there is help for kids suffering with mood disorders.

The story emphasizes the role of helpers; doctors and therapists, who help people feel better. This book is for creating understanding not making a diagnosis. The stories from The Elijah foundation were created to assist families in understanding and explaining the behavioral components of this complicated disorder and to bring awareness to others about those who are living with bipolar disorder. Open up a new conversation with Eli the Bipolar Bear and keep the dialogue about mental health going.

-Product review by Amber Smith, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2018