Michael Rosen's Sad Book
This is another of that very special kind of picture book which blurs the boundaries between what is for children and what can be appreciated by adults. The poet Michael Rosen wrote the book after the death of his son and Quentin Blake illustrates it sensitively. The book is a walk through sadness, and grief, talking about it in all its inexplicable forms, from anger to irritation, feeling detached from those around you, through to a bleak sort of emptiness and despair. But there is also gratitude here, for what has been lost. There is memory, shared experience and, on the last page, a kind of bleak enlightenment. I bought this book for a child but something stopped me giving it, perhaps it wasn't the right moment for that child to read that book. But I've given it to a bereaved (adult) friend and found comfort in it myself. I can see how it would be useful to some bereaved children, especially in the over sevens and read together with a thoughtful adult. The pages where the author explains how sadness can make him behave in strange ways might be particularly helpful, enabling the child to understand and empathise with himself. It might also help the children around him or her increase their empathy and understanding of their friend. Treated with sensitivity, this book could be a useful emotional tool. Another part of me thinks that it might be even more useful for the adults raising or teaching the grieving child to read the Sad Book, and remind themselves.