February 06, 2019

The Creepy-Crawly Thought

Written by Alison Hughes
Illustrated by Jennifer Rabby
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
February 2019

We all get them, those creepy-crawly thoughts that interfere with sleep, daytime thinking and life in general. When they come, everything is tainted with worry and anticipation of something bad.
From The Creepy-Crawly Thought by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jennifer Rabby
So what can I do with creepy thoughts
that move right in to stay?
I'll plan a plan, I'll list a list
for shooing them away ...
A list of strategies is what Alison Hughes, author of picture books, middle-grade and YA novels, recommends for the young afflicted with the creepy-crawly thoughts. You can flush them down the toilet, blow them away, chuck them in the fireplace, or sing them away (apparently "bad thoughts hate harmony"). There are loads of suggestions for dealing with those fears and all are manageable for young children. No logic is needed to convince a child that those creepy-crawlies aren't real because reason doesn't always come into play with fears. But by placing control of those bad thoughts directly into the imagination of a child, something can be done.
I'll crowd out the creepy-crawlies
when all my happy thoughts appear,
and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze them out
until they disappear.
And even if those thoughts return, as they are want to do, a child has the means to send them into oblivion once again.
From The Creepy-Crawly Thought by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jennifer Rabby
As a teacher, I know how anxiety can affect children and telling them they have nothing to worry about just doesn't work. Invalidating their feelings while trying to reassure often creates new problems. But by placing the control in their small hands, children can visualize getting rid of these pesky thoughts with action and imagination. And with a variety of strategies for dealing with those creepy-crawlies, Alison Hughes ensures that there's at least one that will work for any child. Moreover her rhyming text, sure to annoy those monstrous thoughts, brings a lightness and manageability to the plight of a child dealing with anxiety.
From The Creepy-Crawly Thought by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jennifer Rabby
Jennifer Rabby's illustrations are relatively simple but effective in giving form to the creepy-crawlies. After all, how do you illustrate a negative thought that pervades without creating new fears for children? By making the creepy-crawly thoughts vague and nebulous blobs of different colours and facial (?) expressions, Jennifer Rabby suggests that there are a variety of detrimental thoughts that cause anxiety and worry and need to be eliminated. Moreover, their fuzzy shapes suggests the enigmatic nature of most fears and worries, allowing children to see their own within these amorphous forms.

Alison Hughes and Jennifer Rabby hope to donate copies of The Creepy-Crawly Thought to local, provincial and national child protection agencies and children's social services but you should purchase your own copy because you know that those creepy-crawlies can slither in at any time and rejection can be just a playful rhyme away.


  1. Truly a pleasure to have a review as thoughtful and meaningful as this one is! Thank you so much for this, Helen, and for all you do for Canadian children's lit.