A BANGOR teacher has just unveiled a children’s novel widely praised not only as a fast-paced adventure but also a helpful tool to aid children navigate their emotional wellbeing. Joe Richardson, a teacher at St Malachy’s Primary School for the past seven years, has just self-published his book, The Animal in Amy, which he intends to be the first installment in a trilogy. And after almost five years of rewrites, drafts, editing and proofreading, his new book has been unveiled as Joe and his wife Nicola welcomed their new baby son Adam. At five months old, Adam is the person to which his doting father’s new book is dedicated. The Animal in Amy is described as an ‘hilarious adventure, following our resident animal expert Amy Cupples, 11, as she attempts to solve the mystery of missing children, all the while coming to grips with her own set of newly emerging ‘super’ powers’. Coming in at almost 200 pages and 26 chapters in length, it is a fast-paced story, with laugh out loud moments and amazing animal facts laced throughout. Joe has had his writing project simmering away in the background ever since he began bringing literature to children in the classroom. It was in this setting that his desire to write a children’s novel first flickered. An avid reader of primarily children’s books, Joe has always felt that the best way to get a child interested in reading is to be enthusiastic. “In the classroom I love chatting with my pupils about their current reading books, be that a personal reading book or a novel assigned in class,” he said. “The boys and girls reciprocate this interest and are eager to read more, knowing that I have knowledge of the book and will be able to share their interest. That’s when I first had ambitions of releasing my own book that I could discuss and share with the children. And here we are.” “Teaching in key stage 2, we explore many topics that focus on animals. The children always display a genuine interest in animal facts, and the more unusual the better. For example, did you know that a turtle can breathe through its bottom? Reviews from beta readers have commented on the love of animal facts in the story and how Amy comes to adopt some of their unique abilities,” he explains. Recognising recent moves towards putting children’s mental health in greater focus, Joe decided he could not write without acknowledging this. “Recent years have seen a huge push and focus upon mental health of children, with a celebrated annual ‘children’s mental health week’ and the introduction of more regular lessons into the curriculum designed to develop a child’s resilience.” In response, Joe decided to embrace this in his writings. The Amy in Animal successfully explores such themes and in a fun engaging fashion manages to teach children strategies and methods to manage and regulate emotions. “When in a high emotional state, our heroine Amy exhibits abilities usually only seen in animals. This afforded Joe the perfect opportunity to utilise some of the techniques explored in the classroom and provide a working example of how children can recognise and manage their own emotions and mental health.” Joe was grateful when he learned how his fiction was able to have a positive impact on one young reader. “A parent commented that her anxious child began using a breathing board technique to calm down and relax, after reading how Amy used it in the story, I was immensely proud to say the least.” Written for children aged eight to 12 years old, the story focuses on friendships and about children’s search for their own particular superpower. “Moreover, many other important social and environmental aspects are explored and addressed; from something as small as picking up dog poo to protecting the endangered animals of the world,” he said. Joe has been delighted with the feedback his new book has received. “All the reviews online have been glowing, and the novel has even been picked up for use in six different primary schools already – including St Malachy’s and Bloomfield PS. Joe is in the throes of the sequel, The Animal in Amy’s Mirror, and has plans to complete the story with a third and final instalment. For further information on how to purchase the book, visit Amazon or visit www.theanimalinamy.com