April 15, 2019

The Cold Little Voice

Written by Alison Hughes
Illustrations by Jan Dolby
Clockwise Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
February 2019

Listening or not listening to the voices in your head is a skill that we develop with time, practice and experience. Telling the difference between valuable instinct and unproductive doubts is crucial and The Cold Little Voice is all about helping children know how to silence a negative one.
From The Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jan Dolby
The purple-haired child in The Cold Little Voice could be any child. It's a child whose bad-tempered blue voice, like a black cloud raining on a child's joy, points out anything that might be perceived as a weakness.
It points out that I bite my nails, laugh too loudly, trip when I run upstairs, talk too much, blush, cry too easily, make smacking sounds when I chew, sing off-key, get the hiccups too often, and have sloppy writing.
From The Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jan Dolby
The child plugs their ears and tries not to listen but sometimes that voice is far too insistent.  In response, the child stops being who they are.
I become small and still and grey.
And not me.
Fortunately, a new voice, a warm voice of yellow is heard, encouraging the child to look for goodness in cuddles with creatures, in the sun in the blue sky and in a supportive community. And if that cold little voice tries to speak again? Well, the child pities it and soothes it until it can become a big, warm, kind voice that whisper-shouts affirmations and helps turn others' cold little voices into big warm ones too.
From The Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jan Dolby
Just like the warm voice that sends positive messages and encouragement, The Cold Little Voice, the book, is transformative, inspiring light from dark thoughts and support rather than isolation.  Alison Hughes, who has helped children deal with anxious thoughts in her picture book The Creepy-Crawly Thought (2019), recognizes that there are voices in most of us that tell us that we're not good enough as we are and that these voices prey on our insecurities and fears. But Alison Hughes doesn't just negate those thoughts. She helps transform them into positives and reassurances.
A voice that says:
"You can do it!" 
or "Who cares if it's silly – 
you're having fun!" 
or "Everybody makes mistakes!"
Similarly, Jan Dolby, who illustrated Lucky Me (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018) and Gabby, Wonder Girl (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2016) among others, brings that metamorphosis to her artwork. From the sombre blues and greys of the cold, little voice to the yellows and lime greens and pinks of the warmth of good thoughts, Jan Dolby carries young readers from a dark place to one of hope.

Negative thoughts that become doubts and apprehension cannot always be silenced immediately. But The Cold Little Voice will be very reassuring to children as they learn that it is possible to influence those thoughts to becoming good ones that can boost not belittle.
From The Cold Little Voice by Alison Hughes, illus. by Jan Dolby


  1. Beautiful and necessary. One of those books that will change the lives of many children (and more than a few adults as well, still struggling from day to day with blue clouds over our heads).

    1. I agree, Caroline. Teaching a self-help concept like positive self talk in a picture book is friendly without preaching. We need more of these books.