The Strange & Curious Guide to Trauma

The Strange & Curious Guide to Trauma: New Book Review

The Strange & Curious Guide to Trauma by Sally Donovan OBE, adoptive parent, and best-selling & award-winning author

The Strange & Curious Guide to Trauma explores what trauma is, how it affects us, and why our bodies and brains react the way they do.  It tells us why ‘Some Normal’ people say unhelpful things, and how we can help ourselves and others feel better about the ‘alarms’ that go off when we’re least expecting them.

The book introduces you to the world of Ordinary Jo and guides you through a very strange and curious Tuesday.  What should have been a regular Tuesday for Ordinary Jo, turns into quite an unusual day, where Ordinary Jo’s brain and body will have to find some superpowers to get through. Fortunately for Ordinary Jo, human brains and bodies are well designed to survive difficult days, weeks, months, or even years, but when they are young, they may grow differently from their friends and families, who haven’t been through all those challenging situations.

There is some key, interesting characters who accompany and help Ordinary Jo through Tuesday’s testing journey – meet Courtney Cortisol, Amy Amygdala, and Adrian Adrenaline as they jump into action to help rescue Ordinary Jo from a sticky situation.  Emmi Smid’s soft pencil illustrations bring the characters to life in a gentle yet memorable way.

The characters are fun and help the reader understand what some difficult science about our brains and bodies can be. The book is aimed at 8–12-year-old children, but with an adult’s help could be understood by younger children. Teenagers would also enjoy reading this entertaining story – I’m very old (and creaky sometimes) and I was smiling and high-fiving Ordinary Jo all the way through – go Jo!

The book is small enough to read in bite-size chunks at the child’s pace, as it is broken down into 15 chapters in just under 100 pages – or to devour in one longer sitting depending on the child’s interest or ability to absorb the information.  Young people who have experienced trauma and their carers will benefit from positive and realistic messages in this book, both emotionally and practically, when they are overwhelmed and need a reminder that trauma is not their fault or that they are incredibly strong individuals.

‘This is an excellent resource for preparing children whose parents are planning to foster’

Sally’s choice of words to describe different types of trauma and why they might happen are very sensitive and open up the story for a caregiver to relate to the child’s individual experience as they are reading through the book. It will also help children of foster carers and their wider network of friends and family to understand how trauma can affect the children they welcome into their family. This is an excellent resource for preparing children whose parents are planning to foster.  I would also recommend this book to other professionals besides foster carers, who are working with children who have experienced any type of trauma – Sally has provided some very useful tools by way of the characters she has created which will assist professionals in all aspects of their work.

The book is gender inclusive and sensitive, as Ordinary Jo is not assigned any pronouns, which makes it even more accessible and inclusive to all children.  It should be on the shelves of every school library to ensure it is available to all children, to ensure the message it sends about trauma is understood far and wide to help improve the lives of trauma survivors and help grow a more knowledgeable, kinder society that is less ‘judgey’.


Reviewed by Ruth Willetts, Head of Social Work and Development

FosterTalk Members can WIN a copy and Save 10%

We are very excited to have a copy of Sally’s book to give away to one of our FosterTalk members!

Please see our upcoming March edition of You’re Not Home Alone for full details.

We are also delighted to be able to offer our members an exclusive offer of 10% discount when ordering the paperback when bought on the Jessica Kingsley Publishers website Simply enter the code STRANGE10 at the checkout.

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