Albert Talbot, Master of Disguise

Written by Ben Manley, Illustrated by Aurelie Guillerey, Published by Macmillan Children’s

What’s in a Name?

You’re probably wondering who I am. Don’t worry, so am I. And, for that matter, who are you? I’m wondering that too. As adults, we wear many hats. We reinvent ourselves in different roles for different people. Some of us suffer from imposter syndrome, imagining that we’re not who we say we are at all.

But your imagination can give you power. Children are adept at harnessing this and often manage their anxieties via play. Pretending is an essential part of their emotional repertoire.

Many picture books have explored this idea. In Not Now, Bernard by David McKee, there’s a strong case for the idea that Bernard is inhabiting the role of the monster.

“If we are ignored or badly treated, there’s something inside of us that starts to rise up and we react… Bernard realises he’s going to be eaten by a monster – and he is.” — [David McKee](The Guardian)

The monster is a permissible manifestation of Bernard’s anger. Monsters bite. Monsters throw things. They roar. Monsters don’t have a bedtime.

In Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Max is admonished for his wildness. He deals with his shame by retreating into a fantasy land. Here, his wild nature is not only accepted, but revered. He imagines himself as the King of the Wild Things.

In my book, Albert Talbot: Master of Disguise (illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey), Albert exorcises his fears through play. By taking on a variety of personas, he finds the strength to make it from one end of the day to the other.

Do you remember your first swimming lesson? The sense of panic as you tried to keep your head above the water. Perhaps that feeling still returns sometimes with the smell of chlorine, or the echo of the pool. This isn’t a problem for Zandrian Delaclair, Antarctic Submariner!

Or how about that big presentation? The cold sweat. The nausea. Your hands shaking as you look out at the rows of eyes staring back at you? Pretty daunting…

… unless you’re Octavius Pickleswick, Mechanical Engineer!

This idea is known as self distancing. I might ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” Or maybe even, “What would Batman do?”

Or simply, “What would Ben Manley do?”. Using the third person might be frowned upon as bizarre and self absorbed, but Ben Manley doesn’t care about that! Self distancing can actually give you perspective.

So, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, try imagining you’re someone else. You never know, it might just give you the confidence to be yourself.

Yours, Caraltan Naptrap, Professional Author

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