Children's book explores anger

Debbie Blank | The Herald-TribuneSabrina Andonegui Meneses says during this time of the year, "we're thinking about presents we want to give the kids. For me, giving our kids the tools they need to manage their lives, teaching them how to manage their emotions," is the best gift parents can offer.

When Sabrina Andonegui Meneses finally held a copy of her first book, "Even Teddy Bears Get Mad!: Anger is Okay," in her hands last June, she felt "very, very proud of myself. Really proud."

The Mexico City native points out, "I'm not from here. This is not my main language. I'm not a writer. It was a big thing. Now my kids can feel proud of me. If my kids ever thought they cannot do something, after this, they need to know, they can do whatever they want."

The 36-page children's book "is a cute story about a sweet teddy bear that wants to be happy all the time, but one day he is not feeling like that. He is feeling mad at his best friend. So he is shocked. He doesn’t understand why he is feeling like that.

"But fortunately, Mrs. Paz, the teacher, teaches him that anger is OK and gives him four easy steps to manage anger."

"Even Teddy Bears Get Mad!" is not just aimed at enraged kids. The author says, "I think any kid should read this book. A lot of parents asked me if this is just a book for kids with anger problems. The answer is no. All the kids should learn anger is OK, and build a better mental health for their futures."

According to the six-year Batesville resident, "I wrote this book because I truly believe that we should not teach the kids not to be angry. We should teach them how to be angry, because anger is good for them and for us. Anger is telling them there is something they don’t like that they need to change. When kids learn how to express their anger in a healthy way, they don’t need to be violent or hurt people. They learn how to speak up for what they don’t like and set limits to abuse or injustice and maybe prevent bullying.

"When we grew up, our parents taught us that anger was wrong, telling us things like 'Don’t get mad, it’s not a big deal, just be happy or be positive.' So we learned to hide the emotion and repress it. But repressing the anger can lead us to other unhealthy problems, like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure or any kind of addiction.

"I wrote this book because I wanted to teach young kids and parents that anger is good, and I thought the best way to do it was with a picture book" so that children and their parents can share it together.

As a parent, Andonegui Meneses lives her life believing "a child is not giving us a hard time, a child is having a hard time. That has helped me to be compassionate and empathetic toward them."

A Sept. 20 review on the Amazon website said, "I am a preschool teacher and am doing a lesson with this book to teach students about emotions. It is so important to give children the early framework and language to talk about emotions. For 3- and 4-year-olds, it can be so difficult to understand what is happening inside their bodies when anger builds up. This book does a great job with a relatable scenario, and can help parents and teachers to guide children as they work with their anger in a healthy way."

After moving here, the stay-at-home mom, who earned a degree in psychology from the Universidad Intercontinental in Mexico City, was trying to figure out her role in Batesville. She recalls reading about anger. "That was helping me a lot with my kids. I decided I needed to show ... what was working for me." She spoke about the topic at a local Mom2Mom meeting, then led a discussion after a Hispanic Community Advisory Committee showing of the movie "Inside Out," which is about emotions.

"I was telling the parents what I wanted them to know. I was missing something. I needed to tell the kids."

Two years ago at the Pearl Street Pub in Oldenburg she told her children about the book idea. "We started talking about the story" and the kids were drawing cartoons. It was close to Christmas, so her son and daughter designed a special notebook as a gift so she could write down her ideas.

Andonegui Meneses went to a private school where classes were in English for half a day and Spanish for the other half. She and husband Jorge Lopez tend to speak Spanish at home so their children, Maria, 15, and Emi, 13, also can be bilingual.

After 10 months of creating the book, she realized "I was writing the English in my Spanish way." Friends who read early drafts said, "'That's not the way Americans would say it.' A couple friends helped me a lot." Cheryl Olsen, Amber McGuire, Joellyn Hartley and Rachael Berkemeier are acknowledged in the book for "invaluable help."

Getting the illustrations right was the most challenging part of creating "Even Teddy Bears Get Mad!" "It took a long time," she remembers.

Publisher Debi Stanton, Columbus, matched up the author with illustrator Savannah Horton, Plainville. They communicated through the publisher. Looking at initial drawings, the writer thought, "'I like this, this and this, but I don't like this, this and this.' I don't think she was getting all my ideas." Andonegui Meneses drove with her kids west two and a half hours to Plainville. She talked to Horton for two hours. "I expressed everything I was trying to do with the book. It was magical." By the time the author drove home, new ideas had been emailed. "Everything was right, exactly how I thought it should be."

The paperback can be purchased in Batesville at The Bookshelf, Bird in a Tree or Fabulous Finds & Designs; or through Amazon. She is also working on getting the book published in Spanish.

The Southeastern Indiana YMCA member is writing two more books now, both for children about expressing feelings. She believes, "We need to go through all emotions to be calm and in a good place." One book will describe how the body reacts to certain emotions and why we have them.

It's a new chapter compared to her jobs in Mexico before children, working in human resources at Televisa, Mexico City; and Kellogg's, Querétaro; and also at a Querétaro preschool.

When her husband was considering a job transfer here with Batesville Tool & Die, the couple flew up to explore and found the city to be "little, ... cozy, everybody was really nice."

She began introducing herself in Batesville as Sabrina Lopez, but then reverted back to her harder-to-pronounce legal name, Sabrina Andonegui Meneses. The writer explains, "In Mexico we keep our last name" even after marriage. "Andonegui is my dad's last name and Meneses is my mom's first last name." The last name of their kids is Lopez Andonegui.

When asked about favorite pastimes, the writer answers, "I wish I could travel everywhere in the world. I think it's the best experience we can give our kids." Memorable trips? "My kids will say it was near Cancun at Playa del Carmen, Mexico." The last getaway was a couples trip to New York City to celebrate their 15th anniversary. "It was awesome."

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

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