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"Hey Warrior" Book Review

Authored by Karen Young

Illustrations by Norvile Dovidonyte

What is this book about?

This gorgeous book by Karen Young, “Hey Warrior: A Book for Kids About Anxiety”, is a book that helps kids and teens understand anxiety, feel empowered and develop skills. The book includes things like why anxiety feels the way it does, where the physical symptoms come from and how to relax and be the boss of their brains.

This book:

  • Introduces the concept of anxiety

  • Normalizes how common anxiety is and that anyone can feel anxious

  • Introduces a little neurobiology in a cute, fun, child centred way that provides a concrete description kids can access and understand with the super cute ‘warrior’ character that is the amygdala who fires up to protect you … even when you don’t need protection … and hence can leave you feeling anxious

  • Provides practical concrete examples of what anxiety feels like to make the information easily accessible to young people (and their big people)

  • Provides strategies to help calm and relax the ‘warrior’, so that the person is running the show and not their ‘warrio

  • Helps the reader identify “cool things about you” to support the understanding that sometimes the things people wish to change actually have strengths built into them. A fantastic contribution to self-compassion and self-acceptance

It’s really such a well rounded book it makes a fantastic resource. It’s definitely one of my favourites and most utilized. I use it in my counselling sessions and share it with other professionals and also with friends.

Why do I like this book?

I love pretty much everything about this book. I still remember the first time I saw it – the day a colleague had discovered it and brought it into the office around the time it was first published. I was immediately drawn to it (and very grateful my colleague had snaffled up a few copies for us) and started using it right away.

I found it was so great to:

  • Engage kids (and teens … and actually adults too so that they could be part of their young person’s journey)

  • Ease into conversations that might feel tricky e.g., providing psychoeducation about anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Why PTSD? I find one of the effects of trauma is a 'warrior' that can be very over protective, to the point of cause big difficulites.

  • Begin externalizing conversations (this is a type of therapeutic conversation in which the person and problem are separated so that people are people who are experiencing problems or in relationship with problems rather than feeling like they are the problem. This makes tackling problems much more effective)

  • Develop coping skills e.g., strong steady breathing to calm the central nervous system and developing helpful self talk

  • Empower young people with knowledge and skills

  • Provide understanding, validation, and acknowledgement. There’s something very special and helpful about knowing you aren’t the only one, and that you are accepted

  • Develop a shared understanding of the ‘warrior’ (and how to help) amongst the adults in the young person's life e.g., parents/carers, teachers, other professionals involved

  • Provide a tool for families that they could take on themselves to have their own conversations and put in place their own support processes for when the ‘warrior’ might become overprotective

I have a lot of favourite parts of this book, too many to name, but I do love this sentence, “Always remember, anxiety is a sign that you’re about to do something really brave. Anxiety and courage always exist together – always – so take your strong breaths, your powerful thoughts, and that brave warrior of yours, and go be amazing.” Okay…two sentences ;) I love this because I have never met a person who manages the effects of anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder who isn’t courageous… it’s just that people don’t always recognise this in themselves.

And as an added bonus, this book is incredibly illustrated, and in a way that I’ve found appeals to all genders and all ages… including adults! The pictures just reach out to you and engage you in ways that enhance the story.

Oh and did I mention the super cute plushie that you can get as well if you like? I love to let my clients hold the plushie while we read the story. It helps them feel more grounded and also more connected to the book and what they are learning and processing.

How do I use the book?

I like to use the book to help with Psychoeducation about anxiety, including post traumatic stress disorder, and then to build on this with externalizing conversations and skills building so that my client has a solid tool kit of strategies for calming their ‘warrior’.

I like to use the book to help parents/carers/other professionals think about the young person’s experience, to develop a shared language, and shared ways of supporting the young person to maximize consistency.

I recommend this book to clients, and also to family and friends. It's a great resource for families whether or not someone in the family is seeing a counsellor.

I also use this book in training I provide across Australia as an example of how helpful a great resource is to support psychoeducation and externalizing conversations. My little warrior is very well travelled!!

There are so many ways to use this book… and I might have got a carried away in the previous section listing these ways when I was explaining why I love this book.

While the book may appear to be geared towards younger audiences, do not feel any age restrictions! I have used this book with some pretty savvy, discerning teens, as well as adults.

I love this book and I hope you love it too.

Let me know your thoughts and how you use the book.


Dr Leonie White - Clinical Family Therapist and Psychologist

Helping people grow, connect and thrive in life’s unique journey.

Please note - this article is educational in nature and does not constitute therapy advice.

Please seek help from a professional if you require support.

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