And why not? The end of each year seems to be such a mountain to climb. Why not start by saying that this new one is going to be all the awesome? I’m not entirely convinced awesomeness is a real word, but I used “awesome” as a Word Wednesday word last year, so can’t reuse it. Fortunately, “awesomeness” appears on the front cover of one of today’s books, and that’s good enough for me.
The start of a New Year often seems about rebirth; reaccentuating the good and chucking out the bad. The two books I’m reviewing today are very much aimed at older children/younger teenagers, so one would hope they don’t have too many bad habits they want to break. Instead, for this first Word Wednesday this month we’re all about accentuating the positive.
What is Diary of a Brilliant Kid?
Appropriately, it’s awesome! That’s what it is!
It’s a collaboration between three authors: Andy Cope, a “Dr of Happiness” and founder of the Art of Brilliance. A writer of a number of similar books for adults and teenagers. Gavin Oattes, a stand-up comedian and inspirational speaker, and Will Hussey. Will’s author blurb is pretty much just that he likes snakes, but he works with Andy Cope on the Art of Brilliance. The book is illustrated by upcoming illustrator Amy Bradley. They’re clearly a great team as this book is engaging from start to finish.
The book is about unlocking potential, but not in a meaningless buzzword sort of way. First up, it’s really fun. Laugh out loud funny, particularly for its target audience (by which I mean it has toilet jokes in it.) Second, it lays out small simple ways in which children can approach various activities to help get more out of their experiences. Third, Diary of a Brilliant Kid accentuates over and over again how important it is and how life-affirming it is to be nice to people.
Heading into 2019, I’m not sure there is any more important a message than that. In a world increasingly driven by divisive rhetoric and internet trolling, I want my children to understand the power of compassion and positivity.
Now, generally, I hate the concept of positivity, as described in self-help books. All too often, because it’s tied into financial growth but this book is about forging your path for happiness and enjoyment. Being awesome for the sake of it; because it’s fun. It doesn’t deny that life can be terrible either. The authors are clear that not every day will be positive, but (much as in Matt Haig’s Truth Pixie) good times will come and the light will burn brighter against the dark.
Diary of Brilliant Kid is filled with amusing stories that illustrate the authors’ points, but better still, there are lots of exercises, written and verbal, that children can do to help them feel better about themselves and help them understand the importance of “me.” The book is designed to help them realize that, even with the bits they don’t like about themselves, that “me” is still one of the more awesome things on the planet.
- Getting your teacher on-side to allow you to be negative in lessons for 10 minutes and then being positive for 10 minutes and seeing how different you and those around you feel.
- Imagining a newspaper article about you as a local hero, aged 71. What would you like it to say about you?
- Write a letter to yourself from four-year-old you, on how to enjoy life.
I admit, in my rather pedestrian prose, read in the cold light of day from the blue light of a screen, these ideas might seem a little daft, but packaged up by Cope, Oattes, Hussey, and Bradley, they seem like the best ideas since somebody realized toasters would work much better if bread came pre-prepared in narrow cross-sections.
One of the biggest fear for my kids is that doing “just enough” has never been easier. There are so many distractions from discovering the world around them or stopping them from putting extra time into something that takes a bit of effort. Why bother practicing the guitar when there’s another episode on Netflix to watch, or your group of friends is calling you for another mission on Overwatch?
They don’t listen to me when I try to shift them to create something on their own. It’s just dad sounding off again about “how there was nothing on TV when he was a kid” or that when he was bored he had to “make his own entertainment.” There’s probably another whole series of posts on my failings as a motivating parent.
Diary of a Brilliant Kid is hopefully the motivator my children need. They don’t believe me when I tell them they can be awesome, but it takes some effort and a certain mindset. This book leads them to that conclusion about as gently as you could imagine. It does it by being engaging, entertaining, and highly motivational throughout. As I mentioned in my section of our recent 2019 reading resolutions post, I’ve been given partial responsibility for the library in my children’s school. I wish I had the funds to buy copies of Diary of a Brilliant Kid for everyone. I think it would make everybody happier, more motivated, and above all, brilliant.
What is the You Are Awesome Journal?
It’s a companion book to Matthew Syed’s You Are Awesome. Note: You should probably start there as it’s meatier book than the journal.
As its title sort of suggests, this is a workbook to help you put the ideas of concepts of You are Awesome into practice. It’s all very well saying that you’re going to challenge yourself, but how are you going to do it? This takes away “blank piece of paper” syndrome.
The journal also asks you to look at the people in your life who are inspirational to you. This includes people you know and famous people you admire. It prompts you to look at what they’ve achieved and what they’ve overcome to achieve it. The idea being it helps you focus on what you achieve, but also helps you understand that the path to success is far from smooth.
The central tenet of Matthew Syed’s methodology is that raw talent counts for little on the path to greatness. The best way to achieve your goals is to work at them, over and over again. Failure is not just possible, it’s inevitable and should be embraced and learned from.
If I had a criticism of this book it’s that much of it is motivational quotes, which on the face of it might be inspirational, but to me, as an aging cynic, begin to look like filler.
That said, if your child has been captured by the message of You Are Awesome, this journal adds more of the same, and will definitely be useful to help them build a clearer picture of their aims.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy of the You Are Awesome Journal, you can do so here in the US, and here in the UK. I do recommend picking up You Are Awesome first though. You can read my full review of, here.
If you enjoyed this post do take a look at my other Word Wednesday reviews.
Disclosure: I received copies of both books for review.