A Zebra Named Zion by Ben Smith

The idea of this book was to provoke discussions in classrooms about mental health. It is a simple story and is deliberately designed that way. The story follows Zion the zebra as he grows up and encounters sadness for the first time. He is confused about these feelings and soon believes they will last forever. His journey back towards happiness is supported by his mother who convinces him that the feelings of anxiety and despair don’t last forever.

There was a consensus for a long time that children couldn’t become depressed, that they were somehow immune to the feelings of sadness. Childhood has historically been viewed as a carefree time without any worries or strife. Recent clinical studies have blown these ideas out of the water and we now know that children can experience the same sadness and anxiety as everyone else. More and more children are presenting with mental health issues and this is an area that needs urgent attention in our primary schools.

This book is merely a conversation starter. It is a drop in the ocean. We have made huge advances in mental health awareness in the last few years but there is still much room for improvement and I am hopeful that mental health will form an integral part of the primary school curriculum moving forward. Kids need to know that sadness is a part of the journey.

About the author

Ben Smith is a primary school teacher from County Meath in the Republic Of Ireland. He currently lives and works in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. His first children’s book ‘A Zebra Named Zion’ is available now. The book, as well as lots of resources and activities for parents and teachers are available at

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