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How Greek meatballs are heating up Finland

After moving to Finland, Melissa Georgiou turned her attention to children's books and has created a series that deals with managing anger, sadness, tantrums and mindset

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08 November 2017

It is not every day that a Greek Australian moves from the warm climate of Australia to the other side of the earth, Finland, arguably one of the coldest countries in the world. Some may say that even Santa finds Finland too cold to bear year round, yet Melissa Georgiou made the move seven years ago in the pursuit of love and happiness.

A teacher by trade, Melissa turned her attention to children's books, writing a series dealing with managing anger, sadness, tantrums and mindset. The books provide fun and simple solutions for children, and their parents, to help deal with everyday emotional challenges, using mindfulness tools.

Melissa explains to Neos Kosmos the evolution of her books, "As we know, childhood can be an emotional time. The big emotions such as anger and sadness can be overwhelming for developing brains, and sometimes us parents need help with the emotional stuff as well. My son Milo is a great little guy of course, but his quick eruptions of anger were the inspiration behind these stories. I wanted to find a gentle and fun way to talk about these outbursts with him without the dreaded lecture."

Teacher and author, Melissa Georgiou.

One of the best ways to engage was the creation of a character that children can identify with. In fact parents and their parents would certainly identify with the meatball being a staple in any Hellenic household.

Melissa, a one-time Sydney resident created Manny the Meatball, a cute character who goes through the ups and downs of everyday emotions and common thinking patterns. With any good meatball character, Manny was soon joined by a parea, his friends, including Benjamin Broccoli and Crispy Carrot. With a nod to the power of extended family, Sage the wise aunty has been created to showcase a character with experience of the larger emotions. Like any caring aunty, she helps Manny navigate mindfully through the 'challenging times.' Collectively, these characters are there to help deal with managing anger, tantrums and perfectionism.

The books have been written to be entertaining, as well as educational, and to create a connection between parents and their children in this busy world. "The best thing about these books is that they offer a sweet and simple story for children to enjoy, but they also include research-based notes for parents so that they can continue the conversation thoughtfully with their kids."

Asked about her favourite meatball character, Melissa says it is Manny. "He is a sweet little guy who goes through the ups and downs of everyday life but is curious about learning how to grow."

You may not look at a meatball the same way again after reading one of the books.

Launched in Finland in September in Finnish and now also available in English these have completely sold out with a second edition now available. The two books are dedicated to two different emotions; the first is anger and the second growth mindset. The next instalment being readied is about sadness. Each of the books are illustrated by Shirley Harvey from Canada, with design from a Finnish national living in a remote forest cabin. To round out the global element of creativity for the books, the promotional video was made by an Aussie.

Melissa concluded by telling Neos Kosmos that the "target group is kids aged three and above, who love a good story and a good laugh."

Find out more about the project at happybabybrain.com/manny-meatball-series

* Billy Cotsis is the author of the 'Many Faces of Hellenic Culture'.

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