Here's an intriguing idea: two seriously large non-fiction books for adults - The Chimp Paradox (Vermillion), and The Silent Guides (Lagom) - have been followed up with My Hidden Chimp (Studio Press), a children’s book on the same subject – also seriously large – looking at our own human behaviour and how we can control it.
Professor Steve Peters is a Consultant Psychiatrist who specializes in optimising the function of the mind – in other words, making the most of we’ve got in our heads! Back in 2012, he wrote a book called The Chimp Paradox (the mind-management programme for confidence, success and happiness), and very popular it was too. Chris Hoy’s quotation, ‘the mind programme that helped me win my Olympic Golds’, adorns the front cover, while inside many other eminent sport, radio personalities and leaders in education and business praise Peter’s innovative mind management programme. The Chimp Paradox in itself is an absorbing and enlightening tome, explaining the two basic ways in which we think: instinctively, more like the chimpanzee branch of the primate family from which we evolved, and thoughtfully, like a human. These different approaches emanate from different parts of our brain, and Peters’ whole mind model (put very simply) revolves around allowing the Chimp part to dominate when we need to concentrate on survival – operating by the law of the jungle, and the Human part when we are dealing within human society, and using ethical, moral and conscience-driven behaviours to seek happiness and success. Our lack of control over the Chimp part can lead us into using irrational or aggressive behaviour, and Peters strives to show readers how to curb the Chimp in us when it’s likely to lead to behaviours which will cause us and others to be unhappy, overly self-critical and afraid to seek help.
He followed it up in November 2018 with The Silent Guides in response to the requests he had
to elaborate on his model, and this is a more practical guide to the same material, with scenarios and exercises to help readers understand their behaviour and that of others. At the same time he produced a simplified, colourful and highly illustrated, 175 page version for children, My Hidden Chimp. Once again the information and advice is interesting, though not sufficiently accurately age-related. Judging by the images of small children playing Lego, the intended audience is KS1 - yet a book of 175 pages of worksheets is clearly unsuitable for this age group. I have serious reservations about the some of the content of some the illustrations, and the practical usefulness of this book in its current format. For adults, the use of the term ‘chimp’ to represent our less reasoned behaviour may be fine, and images of this particular cartoon Chimp less controversial, but for children the images of a naughty Chimp do little to instil a thoughtful approach to the book, nor teach them to respect animals. Just as troubling is an image of the Chimp behind bars. If those using this book already have perceived behaviour issues this isn’t going to help. Using individual pages as loose worksheets would have its uses, but the paperback format, with a tightly bound spine makes it impossible to photocopy the pages (the inner edges disappear into the spine). Altogether, what was a good book for adults has unfortunately been translated into something totally unsuited to the younger audience for whom it was intended.