Savanna Therapeutic Stories - Guest Blog

Sept. 30, 2021

My name is Talya Bruck and I trained in my native South Africa as a Drama teacher. I then came to the UK over 20 years ago and retrained at Hertfordshire University as a Dramatherapist. I work in primary and secondary schools as part of a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). I use a lot of stories within my work – telling them to children and young people but also supporting them to write their own. Stories have an amazing ability to peek inside the world of others’ lives and see things from different perspectives. They also have the ability to heal as we identify with characters and go through their experiences with them, sometimes in parallel to what we might be going through. As a Dramatherapist, I support children and young people to process what they have been through or might be experiencing. Covid-19 has been an incredibly confusing, stressful, and unknown period not just for adults but also for children and young people. It’s been an unprecedented time where, as a world, we have been going through a shared experience, although we’ve all had different boats in this collective storm.

To this end I wondered how I could support children and young people to start creating meaning and understanding within this time, using my Dramatherapy expertise and understanding of the value of a story, I created a story about a pesky illness that took place on the Savanna as a metaphor for what was happening around us. Savanna Therapeutic Stories was born! Initially, I wrote one story called Hetty’s in Lockdown and released it digitally (PDF). It told about a young hedgehog living on the Savanna and her confusion as to what was happening when the pesky illness swamped the Savanna. El the wise elephant helped Hetty and her friends process what was going on.

Hetty's in Lockdown Again by Tayla Bruck

Writing the stories felt a natural way to help and a medium that I could get out to people quickly as a PDF. My friend’s daughter Erin, who was 15 at the time, created the beautiful illustrations. These bought the books to life and made the characters really relatable to children and young people reading the stories. Two further books emerged called Things are Changing on the Savanna and The Returning focusing on the various changes that continued to take place, again Erin created beautiful illustrations to bring the stories to life.

I was then approached by Patricia Ojehonmon also a Dramatherapist at the end of 2020 to revisit Hetty’s in Lockdown in terms of the current situation, we redeveloped the story which was then called Hetty’s in Lockdown Again and did the same with the other two, renamed as The Changing Savanna and The Return.

As we know Covid-19 bought about an immense amount of grief and loss in so many ways. I then wrote Silo’s Sadness to explore these tricky themes, where young Silo the lion cub had lost his grandfather to the sickness on the Savanna. This book was then self-published on Amazon. I was very happy to have my friend Philippe Miguet help me as the self-publishing process I found was a bit tricky, however he created a beautiful book from the story and images. This book is now available on Amazon.

Since then, I have decided that writing stories are something I simply have to do. Addressing topics that are sometimes hard to talk about, helping parents/educators/therapists/adults to have tricky and meaningful conversations using stories are so incredibly helpful. Recently released is Talulah’s Rules co-written with two colleagues Dr Stella Mo and Rachel Ryan, the story is about a young baboon who has autism, and how we all communicate differently, focusing on how helpful it is to understand different perspectives and communication styles so we can better understand one another.

Savanna Therapeutic Stories is definitely here to stay, with a further two books on their way. Tiana’s Tales co-written with Patricia Ojehonmon addressing the themes of racism and Hugo the Hopping Hippo co-written with Jessie Ellinor looking at physical disability.

If you have an idea for a story give it a go, I did, you never know where it might lead!

This was a guest blog written by Talya Bruck. We try and support our friends and community wherever possible. If you are an educator working on a project that you would like to share with people please get in touch about authoring a guest blog.