Magination Press’s new series of activity books, The Find Out Files, help kids explore emotions and relationships.
Magination Press interviewed author and parenting expert, Isabelle Filliozat, about creating My Emotions, one of the books in The Find Out Files.
Magination Press: What inspired you to create The Find Out Files series?
Isabelle Filliozat: Until now I had only written essays and self-help books for adults on emotions and relationships. I always argue in my books and seminars that all this information and these tools that help living in better harmony with oneself and others should be learned at school. Emotional and relational intelligence can be trained from the beginning. So finally, writing for children was a natural continuum of my work. I realized it was time to address the children directly, to empower them with information.
Then the question of how arose. You learn better when you are active, that’s why I choose this format. First, the child is immersed in a pleasant activity. The activity is chosen to help him discover information or develop a skill.
MP: Who identified the seven basic emotions you explore in My Emotions? Is that something in psychology in general or categories you created for the book?
IF: My approach is mainly based on the work of Joseph Ledoux and, of course, Paul Ekman. The field of emotion is relatively new. The scientists don’t agree yet on a list of emotions; it depends on many factors and the way you define emotion (because even for the definition, there is no consensus).
In 1972, Paul Ekman published a list of 6 basic emotions : fear, anger, disgust, joy, sadness, surprise. A few years later, his list was enlarged to 16, including shame. I followed him on that. Many experts on emotions saw the relevance of including shame in basic emotions, even if it was a social emotion. More recently, to create an atlas of emotions, (a map the Dalaï Lama asked him to build), Ekman led a large survey of 149 different scientists to gather a consensus. He concluded on five categories of emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness and enjoyment. They are the emotions in the Disney movie Inside Out. (He was a counselor for the film). So you see, nothing is completely fixed yet. During my professional life time, like Paul Ekman, my ideas have evolved. The seven emotions we explore in My Emotions are the seven I consider now as relevant. I add love, because love is a sentiment but also an emotion. I don’t use surprise; I may one day, but surprise is a startle reflex, the beginning of fear, the protection system. A categorization is only a categorization, it isn’t the “reality.” The more the scientists work on the field, the more information we get, the more we can refine our model. A model, a categorization, helps to label and to discriminate between different states. It is the first step to mastering.
MP: Why is talking about and exploring emotions important?
IF: It is important because emotions are not only the salt of life, what gives the taste of it, but it is the water of life. It irrigates us, it supports us…We are made of water. We are made of emotions. Sometimes the waves inside you are tough, sometimes you are drowning under the flood. The more you learn about how to identify, to manage, the less you harm your heart and relationships, and the easier you sail.
The more we talk about it, explore it, the more we understand what is going on inside us and can use our emotions to help us live a better life rather than suffer from them or let them guide our relationships for the worst.
MP: In My Emotions, you explain oxytocin and dopamine, two hormones produced by our bodies that impact feelings. Why was it important to explain to kids what these hormones do?
IF: I think having an idea of what is going on physiologically is useful. Our emotions are not only “psychological,” the psyche has a physiological basis. I think understanding oxytocin and dopamine may help children realize that it is not only “in their head.” It also gives them tools to modify their emotional state. Knowing how we secrete oxytocin or dopamine can help them come back to a state of comfort instead of staying stuck in a state of sadness or anger.
MP: There are lots of books for kids about feelings and relationships. Why did you make your books interactive?
IF: Because I wanted the books to be efficient! Studies in psychology show that listening passively or simply reading is not a very easy way to learn. When you are active, when you engage, when you play, you learn better. We constructed activities that are interesting so that the child learns information and develops skills. And also, I wanted them to have fun tools to use in their daily life.
MP: What is your favorite activity in My Emotions?
IF: The wheel of emotions, because I received many testimonials from parents saying their child was using it a lot, talking about their emotions instead of acting out. I also like the paper fortune teller! Both are tools to help the child communicate.
MP: You’ve made individual books for My Anger and My Fear. Why did you choose these two emotions to explore further? Will you create books for any other of the seven emotions?
IF: Yes, I intend to create books for each of the seven emotions. But you know, it’s not obvious for a parent to buy a book on disgust or shame… or even sadness. So I will probably treat those indirectly in books on related topics.
MP: You have a different animal guide readers through each book in The Find Out Files. Why did you choose a seagull for My Emotions—or did the illustrator choose the animal guides?
IF: I didn’t write all these series myself. My Emotions was written by myself and my colleague, Virginie Limousin, (whom I trained for many years). We worked together on it. For this first book, the illustrator proposed the seagull. For the later ones, we chose an animal that was somehow related to the topic. We choose an animal to guide the reader and give the information to avoid top-down lecturing. The seagull says important things just passing by, she is not superior to the child. You learn more from someone you don’t consider above you.
That’s something parents and teachers have sometimes difficulty understanding: children will learn better from peers than listening to adults. The animal is like a friend, he is never judging the child, nor is he “superior” like adults are.
MP: Are The Find Out Files meant to be used individually or can families or groups use the books together?
IF: We conceived the Files to help communication between parent and child. At the end of the book, parents find a few pages explaining to them how to use the Files. Of course some children who are old enough to read by themselves will use the Files alone. We have feedback from 14 year-old adolescents loving The Find Out Files! But the younger ones will need the help of the parents. And in fact that’s a good idea. Emotional literacy is about communicating! Families and groups are very welcome to use the books and develop the tools for better communication in the family, the classroom, or any group.
MP: You first published the series in French. What was it like to translate it to English for the Magination Press editions? Is this the first time your books for kids have been translated?
These Files have already been translated in different languages, but it’s the first time it was in English, and the first time an editor, Magination Press, had the great idea to ask the author, me, to do the translation. As my English is not perfect, I preferred my son work on it. Adrien is 24 but has been studying in English for 15 years, at school and university. He was the perfect person for the work. We had a wonderful time together exploring emotions in depth, my son being so precise and asking me what I meant exactly for each sentence. We checked and double checked the information.Thanks to this work together, we detected errors that we never saw in the French edition! I gave the corrections to the French editor, so the translation has improved the book!
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing books or working with patients?
- Most of all, I love to learn new information, explore a new field. Nowadays, I listen to videos on the internet and read a lot about breathing and swallowing, to understand more about oral myofunction.
- I love reading, everything except horror or detective novels.
- I love dancing freely to music. With my son, when he is with me, as he is a movement coach, we dance together 3 songs a day. It gives me a lot of joy and I feel so good after that! It’s so revitalising.
- I love singing. I discovered I had a nice voice very recently! My coach is wonderful. She trains me in spontaneous singing, and helps my voice come out. I’m always surprised by the sound of my voice and delighted to experience so much joy!
- I like to meditate.
- I like to travel and discover new people and new places.
- And of course I love cooking (I wrote a cook book, 1/4 active meditation for parents who have no time sitting for hours, ¼ psychology, ¼ psychonutrition, and ¼ recipes). I find cooking very relaxing. I like to try new experiences, nowadays, I’m experimenting with fermenting food!
MP: Did you have a favorite book as a child? If so, what was it?
IF: La petite taupe, The Little Mole. Thanks to your question, I discovered it was a cartoon of the Czech animator Zdenek Miler and this little mole had lots of new adventures. Nice to see her again! I only had one book, that I wanted my parents to read it to me over and over. I related a lot to this little mole. In the story I remember, she saw a barboteuse (some overalls) with large pockets so that she could keep all the wonderful objects she was finding all the time. She was dreaming of it so much! The other animals didn’t understand her insistence, but they helped, and she finally managed to make herself a pair, and finally ends up with her “barboteuse” with huge pockets.
Hear Ms. Filliozat describe The Find Out Files in this video.
Related Books from Magination Press
The Find Out Files: My Emotions
This clever activity book is a fun-filled tool for kids to discover self-expression and awareness. It offers kids all sorts of information to nourish and appreciate their emotional life.
Young readers will learn how to name their emotions, understand and accept their feelings, and develop emotional self-awareness so they can get on with the business of being a kid.