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Review: The Bravest Word by Kate Foster

March 5, 2022

About the Book:

Do you hear that? You’re Cliff now, and your life is going to get better, I promise.

When eleven-year-old Matt finds Cliff, a hurt, neglected dog abandoned in the bush, he knows the brave little pup needs saving. He wants to help. But can he?

Lately, Matt has had way more bad days than good days. The pieces of his life just don’t seem to fit together any more and he doesn’t understand why. He’s finding it impossible to concentrate at school and has lost interest in the activities he used to love. Plus, he’s tired all the time.

Matt’s too afraid to share what’s really going on in his own head with anyone. His friends and family will never understand . . . maybe it’s not only Cliff who needs saving.

My Thoughts:

Wow, this book had me feeling all the feels. A book about depression in kids. This hits hard and is beautifully handled. I admit I got teary – several times. Matt’s journey to understanding what is going on with him is heartbreaking and at the same time uplifting as Matt navigates and learns to recognise what is going on in his head. From uncertainty and fear to understanding, acceptance and taking that brave step to ask for help. Author Kate Foster handles several topics here with a deft hand. Depression, anxiety, fear of failure, what it means to be an Aussie male, grief, mateship, social media addiction, panic attacks and animal cruelty to name a few. Matt is dealing with a lot. He has just started high school and is a top footy player for his local team but something is just not right. He doesn’t want to play anymore, doubts his abilities and doesn’t want to let down his friends but he is not handling these turbulent emotions at all well. His grades are slipping, he hides from his mates, sleeps all the time and is afraid to tell anyone what he is going through for fear it will make him look weak.

Then Matt and his dad rescue an abused dog and suddenly Matt is learning a lot about what it is to suffer poor mental health through no fault of your own. Using his blog about newly adopted Cliff, Matt starts to recognise it is okay to ask for help. It is the bravest word after all. And it takes a village sometimes to get through. This is a beautiful story and is beautifully written by Kate Foster. I think a book like this can foster good conversation amongst kids, and also between kids and the adults in their lives. It’s okay to talk about it. We should be talking about it. There is a widespread view in Australia about the “blokey bloke” the “mateship” paradigm, the “don’t be weak, don’t be a wuss” mentality. It’s changing slowly as we educate the masses that mental health is important and that “anyone can feel this way” but there is a long way to go to curb the stigma of shame around poor mental health. It is not weak to talk about your feelings and to “talk to your mates.” Mental health matters and I think it’s books like The Bravest Word that will help encourage the conversation. I definitely recommend this read – for all ages.

The Bravest Word is out May 4, 2022. Pre-order it now.


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