You’ve Got Dragons, by Kathryn Cave: A Metaphor for Anxiety

Jul 24, 2017Pat's Chat

Your heart thuds and your knees wobble and your hands shake and your head whirls and you feel hot and cold and you can’t breathe and your tummy hurts and you can’t believe it’s really happening to you. But it is. It really is.

These are the opening lines to You’ve Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave. Many people may recognize and EMPATHIZE with these feelings. The overwhelming and uncontrollable fear, the turning nerves and lack of control that is – anxiety. But Kathryn Cave does not preach or counsel, and doesn’t say, “well, you have generalized anxiety disorder”, the author goes on to say:

You’ve got dragons.

The young boy, Ben, begins a journey to understand and battle his dragons (his anxiety.) He asks himself WHY (as many with anxiety do).

You’re right. Nobody deserves dragons. YOU certainly don’t.
You didn’t get them by being bad. All these people have dragons, and they’re REALLY, REALLY good.

You don’t have to be naughty to have anxiety and it can happen at any age. Ben’s dragons pop up at night, at school, or at home and he thinks that people won’t understand. Sometimes he’s scared and alone and just needs a hug. (Can’t we all relate?) Soon Ben talks to others about his dragons and starts and advice column.

Dear Ben,
I got dragons last month when we moved to our new house. Now my tummy hurts every morning.
Is this normal? I also have purple spots on my tongue. What do you suggest I do?

Anxiously, Dave

Dear Dave,
In answer to your letter:

  1. Yes
  2. Stop chewing on your markers.
    It makes your teeth purple too.
    Your friend, Ben

One day, when Ben least expects it, his dragon disappears.

Kathryn Cave uses many tools in this picture book to approach anxiety in children. Using a direct address point of view and the word “YOU”, she can talk to an anxious reader with authority. A child with anxiety will empathize with Ben and want to join his journey against the dragons. They find an ally and know they are not alone in the world of worry. You’ve Got Dragons provides a colorful resource to discuss and understand anxiety in children.

The author emphasizes that anxiety is common and can cause physical symptoms such as heart racing and trembling. Anxiety can cause fear, worry, and tears. It helped Ben to talk about his worries. When Ben discusses his dragons and writes an advice column for others; he overpowers his worry. His dragons disappear. This shows an anxious reader that he/she can conquer their dragons, too.

Kathryn Cave’s You’ve Got Dragons is one of many picture books that can be used to help anxious children.

Stay tuned to my blog Pat’s Chat for future posts on this topic that I am very passionate about. xoxoxo

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