#1253 – WHAT I TELL MYSELF FIRST by Michael A. Brown & Zoe Ranucci


Children’s Real-World Affirmations of Self Esteem
Written by Michael A. Brown
Illustrated by Zoe Ranucci
Mabma Enterprises, LLC 11/19/2019
30 Pages   Age 6—9

Genre:  Children’s Picture Book, Workbook
Themes: Affirmations, Mental Health, Growing Up



What I Tell Myself FIRST is on a mission to heal kids and parents! Real-world affirmations WORK! Like the AED is to a heart, this book instills the defibrillator of self-esteem. So powerful that it addresses bullying and outside attacks on the self by other people who need the very same help themselves. For when times are tough and your mind is under attack, reality-based daily affirmations are the “I wish I had this” of books.(from back cover)

Opening Sentences

“I am alive, alert, and able. (Take a Deep Breath, Now, exhale. Don’t hold your breath, silly.)

Why I like What I Tell Myself First: Children’s Real-World Affirmations of Self Esteem

What I Tell Myself First is an affirmation book for kids. There are dozens of wonderful affirmations geared toward children. The aim is to help kids self-actualize as they increase their self-esteem. There are questions, such as:

“The Truth is __________?”

Children fill in what they think defines truth and then read its affirmation.

“I must always tell myself the truth.”

The affirmation is qualified by what look like further affirmations. For example, the affirmation,

“I must love myself FIRST,”

has these explanations/affirmations:

“I must be selfish before I am selfless.
“I am no good to anyone else, if I am not good to myself.
“I must love myself, first. I must protect myself, first.”

Topics include self-love, loving others, truth and lies, physical appearance, learning ability, failure, change, right vs. wrong, respect, bullies, and more.   

Many of the affirmations are very effective and helpful. I am particularly fond of the following:

“Not everyone will like me. That is okay! I, like me!
“Before I do anything, I must think first.
“I must listen to understand.”

I do not understand a couple of affirmations . Here is one.

“I learn slow[ly], so I will forget slow[ly].”

And at least one affirmation I do not agree with (though this is simply my opinion).

“Work equals worth. In my work, I am worth.”

This affirmation has the potential to teach children that someone who cannot work is worthless? This is not something I want children internalizing, as it is not true. To believe this is actually rather cruel to those disabled or unable to work for other valid reasons.

“I will work on what I am not good at doing. I will either get better, or do something else.”

I like children remembering to practice what they are good and thus get better, but if they do not “get better, or do something else” does not make sense to me. Because you reach your peak in something you are good at, and you like what you are doing, why would you do something else?

I find myself overwhelmingly disagreeing with two of the affirmations (as a social worker and as an Aunt). One spread contains both affirmations:

“It is NO ONE’s job to ‘Heal Me’ of anything. That is my job.” (Adds: “I must find what hurts me to heal myself of what hurts me.”)

“It is NO ONE’s job to ‘Protect Me’ from anything. That is my job.” (Adds: “I must stop what threatens me. First, Fast, and Make it Last.”)

The last one pains me. If bullied, instead of seeking help from a teacher or parent, or even a friend, children are to “stop the threat. First, Fast, and Make It Last.” This statement envisions, to me, an act of violence. Professionally, I consider this group of affirmations dangerous and irresponsible.  As a layperson, I am shocked that the author wrote this for children to tell themselves. What we tell ourselves become our feelings, which become our behaviors. I do not want any child repeating and internalizing these “affirmations.” It is not a child’s job to heal or to protect them self. These are the jobs of parents, family, and health care professionals. These two affirmations are at best questionable.

Unfortunately, The above two affirmations are so bad they ruin the book for me. (But, as they are one spread, take out that spread and you salvage an otherwise good book of affirmations for children.)

I love the illustrations. The multicultural children are all sharp, bright-eyed wonders who effectively carry these affirmations to readers. The brightly colored book will appeal to children and parents alike. I would feel good about having What I Tell Myself First in an office where children gather (social worker, doctor, childcare, and library). But there are better books on affirmations for children.

Finally, What I Tell Myself First may be the first children’s book that includes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This triangle of needs begins with “Basic Needs” at the bottom as the need one must be assured of having before they can climb up to the next level. At the top is “Self-Actualization.” Climb to the top and you have made yourself a satisfied and motivated individual who has reached their full potential. In future editions, I hope Maslow will get a section of his own to teach kids a bit about reaching the top and self-actualizing.

Back Matter

Author Michael A. Brown states in a note to readers his many careers. He was in the army, a police officer, anger management specialist, nonviolent crisis intervention instructor, and an educator. From these experiences and careers, he states, he’s “learned great many lessons,” and accumulated “real-world wisdom,” both of which helped him write What I Tell Myself First: Children’s Real-World Affirmations of Self Esteem.  He also speaks of those who “mean the world to me” . . . his children. This is a dad who loves his children dearly.

Illustrations Rendered in Adobe Photoshop.

Available at Amazon

WHAT I TELL MYSELF FIRST: Children’s Real-World Affirmations of Self Esteem . Text Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Brown. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Zoe Ranucci. Published by Mabma Enterprises, LLC.

Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

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One thought on “#1253 – WHAT I TELL MYSELF FIRST by Michael A. Brown & Zoe Ranucci

  1. Pingback: #1253 – WHAT I TELL MYSELF FIRST by Michael A. Brown & Zoe Ranucci — Kid Lit Reviews – Jasper Lynn

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