Quiet the Mind, by Matthew Johnstone

For anyone new to meditation, or who has perhaps been put off by difficult mystical concepts, this is an excellent starting point.

Although this book offers many visual analogies to consider, the most important thing to remember in meditation is your nose and the breath that flows in and out of it.
Think of your nose as a lighthouse from which you take all your meditative bearings.
If you get lost in a sea of thought, think of your lighthouse and ome back to your breath.
If you hear a dog bark, come back to your breath.
If you feel uncomfortable, move gently and come back to your breath.
Breathing in and out, nice and slow and steady.

Every day our mind processes up to 70, 000 thoughts, even when we sleep – roughly one thought every 1.2 seconds. With so many ideas buzzing round our heads, it’s no wonder that we need to stop and try to quiet the mind. However, it is difficult to find a way to still our thoughts, when we are constantly stimulated by the world around us – television, the Internet, music, mobile phones and more, keep our minds constantly busy. Quiet the Mind offers a simple way to counter all that activity – through meditation.

Using simple text and cartoon-style illustrations, the author (who has previously written two successful books about depression) first explains why meditation is important and how it can help, before giving a simple step by step rpocess to meditate. There is no mumbo-jumbo, and nothing confronting in terms fo spirituality or religion, making it accessible to people of all beliefs and backgrounds.

For anyone new to meditation, or who has perhaps been put off by difficult mystical concepts, this is an excellent starting point.

Quiet the Mind

Quiet the Mind, by Matthew Johnstone
Pan Macmillan 2012
ISBN 9781742610733

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn't Fart, by Matthew Johnstone

There once was a boy called Harvey.
Harvey’s life was pretty good except for one thing…
No matter how hard Harvey tried,
he just couldn’t fart.

You’d think that everyone who has a bottom could fart, but it seems not. Although everyone around him seems to have no trouble producing all manner of flatulence, poor old Harvey just can’t join in. Even Mum can fart although she prefers not to do so in public. And as evidence mounts that Harvey is the only person in the world unable to fart, he becomes sadder and sadder. It is said that a problem shared is a problem halved and when Grandad notices his sadness, Harvey tells him about his non-farting problem. Never fear! Grandad has a solution. Harvey’s life is turned around. Illustrations use digital media and a broad pastel pallet, almost retro in style, perhaps suggesting the age-old nature of farting?

Small children (and plenty of not-so-small) are fascinated by farts. They are also intent on learning to do everything that those around them can. Sometimes this is about copying, other times it’s about realising that they are naturally doing what others are doing. Like farting. Universal you’d think. But not for Harvey. Matthew Johnstone inserts many of the common euphemisms for farts, but also the behaviours around this daily function. The dog provides ‘silent but violent’ farts, his sister prefers to fart in private and his friends have competitions for ‘backfiring.’ Even a bird ‘toots’. Grandad might provide the tool, but it’s Harvey’s use of it that wins awards. And in case sharing all the fart words wasn’t enough, readers can learn how to make their own award-winning farts. Sure to open discussion on your family’s particular words for farts, but hopefully not graphic illustration! Recommended for pre- and early primary children. *note: comes with a Fart-o-matic!

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart, Matthew Johnstone
Walker Books 2010
ISBN: 9781921529832

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

I Had a Black Dog, by Matthew Johnstone

There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.

Since Winston Churchill coined the phrase Black Dog to describe his own struggle with depression, the term has been a popular metaphor for the affliction. Clinical depression affects one in four women and one in six men during their lifetime. It affected author Matthew Johnstone and inspired him to write a book about it.

This is no ordinary book. Johnstone uses a format more familiar to readers of comic books or picture books, with large, cartoon-style illustrations and limited text. However, the tone is not light, as Johnstone explores the effects of depression and the ways it can be overcome. Throughout the book depression is characterised as a black dog, who appears in every picture impacting on the male character. When Johnstone talks about depression impacting on his relationships, taking my love and burying my intimacy, the black dog is there, in the middle of the bed between the character and his wife. When the character sits at a bar, drinking, the black dog is there perched on the next stool. Even when the character brings depression under control, the black dog is still there – but kept firmly on a leash.

This book will speak to all those who have been affected by depression – either first-hand, or through knowing a sufferer. Its appeal is in it simplicity – it is a quick read, but deeply effective.

A wonderful addition to library, health service offices and, of course, home collections.

I Had a Black Dog, written and illustrated by Matthew Johnstone
Pan, 2005