Review by Rochelle Cave, Community Engagement and Health Promotion Manager, MHF
Little Ruby & friends
Tui, R. (2023). Allen & Unwin, Auckland.
Professional rugby player Ruby Tui has written a kid’s book about friendship and how to be a supportive friend based on her life experiences.

In this illustrated story book aimed at 4-7 year olds, Ruby supports her friend group through a variety of challenges presented to each of them at the playground and on the sports field. Each situation providing both Ruby and her friends with an opportunity to learn different ways you can support someone when they are working through problems, feelings and emotions.  

Ruby’s approach to helping her friends sees her recognising their distress and then asking questions around how she can help them such as: 

“What’s up – you look a little upset?” 

“You are my friend and I’m here to help. What are you feeling?” 

By using open, exploratory questions, Ruby ensures her friends feel heard and importantly, understood while also empowering them to share what they need to deal with the situation. It’s clear that Ruby wants to understand what works for her friends so she can support them in a way that helps them build confidence, trust and resilience in themselves and their friendships.  

The variety of feelings and emotions that are expressed by Ruby’s friends highlight that we all can feel lots of different things for different reasons and sometimes we share those emotions too. The way that Ruby responds in each situation shows that through empathy and listening we can all help each other to feel better:    

“I scream when that happens to me too – is there something I can do that might help?” 

“Geez, you’re right – that IS a lot” 

By acknowledging and sharing the emotion in a way that doesn’t take the focus away from her friend, Ruby has validated the feelings and allowed a space for them to be felt and worked through productively in relationship.   

This book is a stunning introduction to emotional intelligence, the power of listening and the beauty of relationships. The perfect way to introduce the concept of helping in an empowering and strength-based way, while highlighting the importance of being open to an array of different ways of doing things. Full of tangible ideas to share with our tamariki as they learn to navigate emotions, feelings, challenges and relationships with others such as asking, “are you ok?”, “is there something I can do that might help?” and offering words of encouragement like “now that’s what I call giving it your best shot” and “you can do it!”  

I loved this book and its inclusion of Ruby’s real-life friends. A friend group that reflects the beautiful diversity that we are fortunate to have in here Aotearoa.  The scenarios are relatable to what our tamariki could face in their everyday lives and present a kind, caring, empowering and open approach to helping people. I would love to see this book on the shelf in every classroom, used at mat times and incorporated into activities around wellbeing, how to language emotions/feelings and problem solving. By building a culture of kindness, empathy and connection we can build our tamariki up for themselves and in support of others.  

Disclaimer: Please note these reviews are not intended as endorsements or recommendations from the Mental Health Foundation. This feature introduces resources that may be useful for individuals with an interest in bullying prevention, mental health and wellbeing topics.

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