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Ebook Details
  • 09/2023
  • 978-1-64343-594-7
  • 144 pages
  • $9.99
Paperback Details
  • 09/2023
  • 9781643437026
  • 144 pages
  • $26.95
How to Talk to Porcupines

Adult; Self-Help, Sex & Relationships, Psychology, Philosophy, Fashion; (Market)

This award-winning, easy-to-use field guide offers a powerful set of tools and practical solutions to the most important challenge for today's youth workers, educators, managers, and parents - communication breakdowns. After reading this guide, you will be able to:

  • Identify porcupines in the field
  • Recognize when and how communication breaks down
  • Improve your communication know-how to skillfully redirect prickly personalities
  • Add effective and impactful communication strategies to your toolkit
  • Acquire new tools and strategies to help youth name their big emotions

Use these practical tools to ARISE to any situation so you can quickly de-escalate prickly personalities and get your relationship with youth back on track.


2023 Independent Author Network (IAN) Book of the Year Award Finalist in two categories:

  • Education/Reference 
  • General Non-Fiction

2023 Foreword INDIES Finalist in one category (Career - Adult Nonfiction).

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.75 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Birdseye-Hannula's field guide offers practical advice for anyone who works with young people, especially those who have erected barriers to forming personal connections. The author's approach is direct yet full of compassionate understanding.

Prose: The author's prose is warm but concise; readers will value the balanced integration of case studies, the author's own experiences, and contextual advice.

Originality: While certainly not the first book to advise youth workers on handling difficult communications, Birdseye-Hannula's field guide offers a refreshing combination of empathy and advice that is welcome (for instance, the chart on inclusive language stands out); the author's awareness of gender, race, and economic barriers that can exist between adults and the kids they work with is especially valuable.

Character/Execution: A short, to-the-point guide, How to Talk to Porcupines is a welcome addition to any caregiver's toolkit. Despite its many strengths, and the author's inclusion of helpful anecdotes from her own experiences, the reader may still crave more of her perspectives -- a strengthening of the bond between reader and author would be welcome.

Blurb: Birdseye-Hannula's How to Talk to Porcupines is a concise guide filled with practical advice to help people who work with young people better communicate with them, especially in "prickly" situations. 


Date Submitted: October 11, 2023

In this slim but immeasurably wise tome by a first-time author, Minnesota-based Birdseye-Hannula, a behavioral change coach, teaches those who work closely with troubled youth to help their young charges in a productive way. Describing youth as “porcupines,” as in “someone who feels threatened or challenged” and may protect themselves through bristly or prickly behavior, Birdseye-Hannula prescribes a roadmap to help those in charge identify their emotions and provide meaningful mentoring. Powerful concepts include ARISE—an abbreviation for Actively listen, Respond appropriately, Include Voices, Structure, and Employ nonverbals to “effectively plan for, redirect, and de-escalate porcupine moments”—and bounce-back statements, a tool used to “structure conversations toward resolution” by “describ[ing] expected behavior in a positive light,” empowering the listener to try again.

Birdseye-Hannula includes a number of helpful tools, including a guide to inclusive language — “bossy” vs. “leader,” “disability” rather than “handicap”—as well as a helpful endorsement of the popular improvisational “yes, and…” technique, which here involves empathetic listening and using “inclusive language to build on the experience and truth of the speaker.” Body language also provides a powerful statement, and the author explains optimal ways to interact with youth to maximize effectiveness. She also provides real-life examples (with identifying details redacted) that she calls field studies, encompassing a wide variety of problems and her suggested solutions. Teaching troubled children can be a life quest and a calling, which the author clearly realizes, and it’s inspiring that she provides techniques so that they may be successful in their quests.

A robust appendix includes thoughtful and useful field-guide prompts from the book’s first page to the last, reinforcing the learnings within, and an ample glossary defines concepts readers may not yet be familiar with. Birdseye-Hannula’s dedication to the youth she serves is inspiring, and she conveys the steps that others can take to reach her level of understanding with clarity and power.

Takeaway: Practical, empathetic advice for anyone who works with at-risk youth.

Comparable Titles: Cynthia S. Kaplan, Blaise Aguirre, and Michael Rater’s Helping Your Troubled Teen, Sam Ross’s What I Need From You

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Midwest Book Review

Youth are the foundation of the world's future...

In today's society, our youth play a vital role in shaping the future of our world. Often, it isn't easy to get these young people to open up to an adult and express their feelings.

Youth workers hold various positions, including coaches, guidance counselors, doctors, nurses, and teachers. These people have the power to influence and change a child's life, and they must be equipped with the knowledge and guidance to listen and help break down any obstacles and barriers troubling the youth.

How to Talk To Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide should be a mandatory reading requirement for all positions responsible for interacting with youth. It contains invaluable advice written in a way that can be read as a stand-alone book or field reference guide.

Allegra Birdseye-Hannula, your delightful porcupine title and animal symbol has captured this reviewer's heart. This book is the best advice I have encountered as a twenty-year book reviewer. It contains powerful advice and guidance in a fun and relaxing atmosphere. I encourage it to be read by all who have occupations that require them to work with youth.


MBR Bookwatch

Volume 22, Number 6, June 2023

Paul Meunier, Executive Director at YIPA

In my 30+ years of supporting young people, this is the best concise yet thorough guide for youth workers I’ve seen. Whether you’re new to the  field or a seasoned veteran, this is a must read. Leave it to Allegra to develop the perfect metaphor for the young people we care so much about!

~ Paul Meunier, Executive Director at Youth Intervention Program Association (YIPA)

December 2022

2023 Foreword INDIES Winner: Honorable Mention

Minneapolis, MN—Today, author Allegra Birdseye-Hannula and Beaver's Pond Press are pleased to announce How to Talk to Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide has been named a winner in the 26th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards.

Foreword Reviews, a book review journal focusing on independently published books, announced the winners of its INDIES Book of the Year Awards today. The INDIES recognize the best books published in 2023 from independent and university presses, as well as self-published authors. You can view all of the winners here:

“The days leading up to our INDIES announcement are an annual highlight for our team. It is so very satisfying to see the winning votes come in from our Finalist judging team of booksellers and librarians. Their enthusiasm for the process of discovering the most notable titles is so rewarding for us, and such a pleasure to share with our readers,” said Victoria Sutherland, Foreword’s founder and publisher.

With over 2,400 entries submitted across 55 categories, this year’s competition showcased the remarkable talent and diversity of the independent publishing industry. Foreword’s dedicated editors carefully selected approximately 12 finalists per genre, which were then presented to individual librarians and booksellers entrusted with the challenging task of determining the Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention winners.

2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards Finalist

How to Talk to Porcupines is a Finalist in the 2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards in two categories:

  • Education/Reference
  • General Non-Fiction
2023 INDIES Finalist

How to Talk to Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide is recognized as a 2023 INDIES Finalist in the category Career (Adult Nonfiction). 

2024 IPPY Awards Winner

How to Talk to Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide is honored to be recognized as a Bronze winner in the Education/Workbook category in the 2024 Independent Publisher Awards contest. 

The Independent Publisher Book Awards have been recognizing the best independently published books each year since 1997. We are honored to join the ranks of incredible authors who have come before.

2024 Nautilus Book Awards

How to Talk to Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide rose to the top as a Silver Winner of the 2024 Nautilus Book Awards in the Social Sciences and Education category. 

Human Relations Indie Book Awards winner

How to Talk to Porcupines: A Youth Worker's Communication Field Guide is a winner of the 2024 Human Relations Indie Book Awards in four categories.

  1. Gold Winner: Self-Help Human Relations Indie Book
  2. Gold Winner: Informational Human Relations Indie Book
  3. Bronze Winner: Leadership Human Relations Indie Book
  4. Silver Winner: Workplace Human Relations Indie Book
Ebook Details
  • 09/2023
  • 978-1-64343-594-7
  • 144 pages
  • $9.99
Paperback Details
  • 09/2023
  • 9781643437026
  • 144 pages
  • $26.95