While children on the Westside have been out of the class and confined to their homes for nearly a year, Santa Monica resident Jeff Goodman has been working hard on a new book that looks to help local children explore the many emotions they may be grappling with today.
Goodman’s debut children’s book, “Feel Like Eggs?” was published earlier this year and is now available online at IndieBound.org. Featuring playful rhymes and artwork by award-winning illustrator Gabriella Urbina, “Feel Like Eggs?” serves as a lighthearted introduction to the feelings that kids experience on a daily basis by linking familiar egg dishes to particular feelings, Goodman said in a recent interview.
“My dad, who passed away from Pancreatic Cancer in 2018, was a big fan of rhyming, poetry and linguistics. He loved a good pun — and by good pun, I mean a bad one,” Goodman said as he detailed the origins of his own passion for writing and editing. “I remember back in third grade, my teacher would put sentences on the chalkboard that had some errors in them and I always loved getting into class and correcting all of the errors; that really is stuck with me. So, I’ve always been into writing but I didn’t seriously consider actually writing a children’s book until my daughter was born and started exploring the genre again for the first time since I was a child.”
His daughter Rowan, Goodman said, “when she was little, well, she still is little but when she was really little, she loved playing with an empty egg carton. So, as I’m seeing the world through her eyes, I begin playing around with this idea of: ‘What if every egg had their own emotion?’”
And with his father’s passion for linguistics and this book starting from his daughter’s imaginative play, Goodman added, “everything just felt very cyclical with the book because I feel like I’m sharing this love of language that my dad shared with me and I’m now passing it on to my daughter.”
But Goodman also hopes the story will be an asset to other children and families as well.
“During my time as a Daily Press reporter, I was covering schools and education for a good bulk of my time so I was able to see some of the programming that was resonating with students and families in the schools… In particular, I remember at Santa Monica Alternative School House, they were introducing a mindfulness program there and they were bringing in outside experts to meet with students and go over simple things like expressing your feelings in the moment. And, as this was happening, you can really see that the children were receptive to it; and from talking to the teachers and administrators, there was a lot of feedback on just how beneficial it was for a student to be able to walk away when they’re having an argument on the playground to take a few deep breaths and really understand why they were feeling a certain way. That was really powerful and that really stuck with me,” Goodman said. “Then when I started working at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, there was similar programming that was available there but they call one aspect of it ‘Council.’ You sit in a circle with your peers and it’s kind of like a circle of trust… There’s usually some sort of topic of conversation; in the younger grades it could be something about school or homework but in older grades they get into deeper topics about sexuality and identity. The idea is to be able to speak from your heart and to listen and to really build empathy for others because, as you’re going around the circle talking, 90% of the time you’re listening to other people — only a fraction of the time are you speaking so you’re really hearing and sort of identifying with what other people think.”
Fast forward to the end of 2019, Goodman said, “I started thinking a lot more about how my kid is going to grow up in this crazy world and then, boom, three months later, we’re in a pandemic and that really hammered home the need for tools that meet students’ socio-emotional needs. Couple that with my longtime interest in writing and editing, and I thought it’d be cool to see a children’s book that explains emotions in a new way that kids can relate to and that adults will get a kick out of while they read and share it.”
At the end of the book, there’s a chart with the different eggs showing different expressions so there’s a little picture of a silly egg, scared egg and a bunch of others, and that chart is supposed to act as the conversation starter, according to Goodman.
“After someone has read the book to a child, you can really have a light hearted conversation about how they’re feeling,” he added. “I didn’t have the kind of social emotional programming that I described earlier… And I think there’s just a huge need for it so I really thought that it was time to share that with the world and maybe give kids a new way of fresh way of thinking about their feelings all while promoting a love of reading.”