Last week, Freight Books read…

sadbookMichael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen (Walker Books). So this isn’t actually a book I read last week – I read this book last year, but I thought I’d sneak in a wee review just because it’s so brilliant! I’ll attempt to keep this as upbeat as possible, but the book is, well, really sad. I’m not ashamed to admit to blubbering a bit in the children’s book section of Waterstones on the day that I bought it.

I found this book while on a field trip to Waterstones as part of my Children’s Literature module at Glasgow University (taught by Kirstie Blair, brilliant module, highly recommend it). There were a few teary faces in the Michael Rosen corner and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

shower shoutThis book is staggering. The emotion conveyed is powerful, but the style itself is elegant and simple – the language is accessible for young children, but also hauntingly beautiful in its description of such a raw emotion and delicate subject matter. Rosen shares his grief with the reader in a brutally honest way.

UK P02-39What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. He died. I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.

Sometimes this makes me really angry.
I say to myself. “How dare he go and die like that?
How dare he make me sad.”

He doesn’t say anything,
because he’s not there any more.

It’s a painful read, but also quite uplifting. When I finished reading I felt pretty sad (i’m going to struggle to avoid overusing this word…) but I was also left with the impression that that was alright. I could be as sad as I wanted to be and it didn’t make me a bad person – it wasn’t an emotion to be ashamed of. Michael Rosen is telling me about something deeply personal in his life, and exploring his grief and his coping mechanisms, and even as an adult I found it quite therapeutic to read.UK P02-39I found the book utterly beautiful – the language coupled with illustrations by Quentin Blake (of Roald Dahl and other fame) captured me from the first page. It is a book intended for children, but I think that it fits into the adult picture book genre too – its brevity only serves to make the statements more poignant and poetic.

Michael Rosen said of Blake’s illustrations:

‘Quentin didn’t illustrate it, he ‘realized’ it. He turned the text into a book and as a result showed me back to myself. No writer could ask and get more than that.’

birthdaysI’ve read this book more times than I can remember, and i’ve shared it with all of my closest friends and family. And now I’m sharing it on the Freight Blog, where I hope many of you will read this, and seek it out for yourselves.

Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why.
It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.

It’s not because Eddie’s gone.
It’s not because my mum’s gone. It’s just because.

  • Michael Rosen’s Sad Book won the Exceptional Book category at the English 4-11 Book Awards for the Best Books, the Smarties Book Prize 6-8 Category Bronze Award and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
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