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SEL with ALM: 40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Apr 16, 2023 3:48:00 PM
Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO

We have another international award-winning book! 40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers is a book by a Canadian author who lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This book won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Young Adult Literature and a CLA Young Adult Book Award Honour Book. She has written several other Young Adult and picture books and can boast of being published in 32 countries. Alice also offers online writing courses for aspiring writers. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door (also award-winning), is a conversation between mother and daughter told entirely in post-it notes. I definitely plan to check it out! Stay tuned.


This book's content is aimed at high school readers, and the concept of a teenager writing an advice blog is really interesting. Bird lives in the United Kingdom and is very organized and disciplined. She likes to get things done and thinks she has the answers for everything. So, she begins an advice blog answering other teenagers' questions and dispensing advice to help them take control of their lives. The problem begins when her life begins to slide out of control. Her parents separate, and Bird struggles to understand why. Her relationship with her boyfriend (whom everyone thinks is amazing) seems to be cooling down when he'd like things to be heating up. Things really begin to go awry when a new boy arrives at school, and Bird can't help but be attracted to him, despite numerous reasons not to get involved. This attraction culminates in one out-of-control, unplanned meeting that changes Bird's best-laid plans and nearly ruins her relationship with her best friend and boyfriend. This book explores the SEL themes of decision-making, relationships (friends, romantic, parents/children), conflict, telling the truth, courage, identity, and acceptance. 

Our interesting fact is about advice columns. The earliest dates back to a 17th-century London newspaper that replied to various questions from its readers. Flash forward to 1898, and Marie Manning wrote a column called "Advice to the Lovelorn." More recently, the most famous advice column was Dear Abby. Today, perhaps much of our social media has taken on this "advice" theme, whether that advice is welcome or not is often dependent upon the spirit with which it is offered. 

Socratic Seminar Questions

Bird's best friend Cleo describes her as having "so much self-control."
  • Would you describe yourself as having a lot of self-control or more impulsive? Why?
  • Why did Bird keep her online advice column a secret from her best friend? Would you have kept it a secret or discussed it with your friend before even setting it up? 
  • Do you think you are good at giving advice to friends? Why or why not?
Cleo and Bird discuss Bird and Griffin's relationship and "taking it to the next level."
  • If you had your own advice column, what advice would you give them and why?
Bird says, "It's pretty great when someone asks me something and I can figure out the answer and tell it in a way that might help them get their own life under control." (p.5f)
  • How does Bird feel about herself when she's giving advice? Why does she think having your life "under control" is so important? Would you describe yourself as having it "under control"? Why or why not?
Bird says that she's keeping her advice column a secret because she wants people to be able to write in and say whatever they want to say... but she's also planning to keep it from her boyfriend, Griffin. 
  • Why would she not want to tell him about it?
Bird answers a question about a girl who has a crush on someone but they don't "know that (she) exists" (p8).
  • Do you agree with her advice? If not, what advice would you give?
Chapter 1 ends with a discussion between Bird and Griffin.
  • After reading the discussion, what are your thoughts on their relationship? Is there nothing wrong or not? What do you think Bird or Griffin should do?

lessons that connect to the SEL themes in this book

selwithalm-40thingsGrade 9
  • Lesson 6: Values
  • Lesson 7: SCOPE-IT Strategy
  • Lesson 9: Stress Management
  • Lesson 13: Reflection
  • Lesson 14: Healthy Relationships
  • Lesson 15: Apologies and Forgiveness
  • Lesson 19: Problem Solving
  • Lesson 21: Peer Pressure/Bullying
  • Lesson 25: SMART Goals part 1
  • Lesson 26: SMART Goals part 2
  • Lesson 27: Resilience and Perseverance
  • Lesson 29: Organization
Grade 10
  • Lesson 2: Strengths and Interests
  • Lesson 3: Self-confidence and Self-esteem
  • Lesson 4: Values
  • Lesson 7: SCOPE-IT Strategy
  • Lesson 14: Standing Up for Uourself
  • Lesson 18: Avoiding Gossip and Rumors
  • Lesson 20: Conflict Resolution
  • Lesson 21: Community Supports/Resources
  • Lesson 27: Self-advocacy
  • Lesson 28: Overcoming Obstacles with Optimism
  • Lesson 29: Flexible Thinking
Grade 11
  • Lesson 1: Character Strengths
  • Lesson 2 Self-compassion
  • Lesson 3: Ethics and Integrity
  • Lesson 7: SCOPE-IT Strategy
  • Lesson 11: Grief and Loss
  • Lesson 12: Showing Courage
  • Lesson 17: Navigating Social Media
  • Lesson 18: Avoiding Gossip and Rumors
  • Lesson 19: Problems and Conflict Resolution
  • Lesson 20: Consequences of Peer Pressure
  • Lesson 21: Giving and Receiving Help
  • Lesson 24: Relationships
  • Lesson 25: SMART Goals
  • Lesson 28: Resilience and Perseverance
Grade 12
  • Lesson 2: Skills, Abilities, Interests & Careers
  • Lesson 4: Purpose
  • Lesson 5: Stereotypes
  • Lesson 7: SCOPE-IT Strategy
  • Lesson 11: Character counts
  • Lesson 13: Communicating with Others
  • Lesson 15: Apologies and Forgiveness
  • Lesson 18: Avoiding gossip and rumors
  • Lesson 19: Peer Pressure and your Future
  • Lesson 23: Positive Relationships
  • Lesson 25: SMART Goal Action Planning
  • Lesson 27: Overcoming Obstacles
  • Lesson 28: Grit
  • Lesson 29: Flexible Thinking

We now offer SEL for every age. Visit our website for more details on how to get SEL for preschool to high school for your students!

Dive deeper into SEL for adults and students in my new book, The Social Emotional Classroom: A New Way to Nurture Students and Understand the Brain.

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Topics: relationship skills, Emozi® High School, Anna-Lisa Mackey, M.Ed., SEL and Literature, Socratic Seminar, high school