Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

 

 

Is the celebrity hiding a secret depression? Michael Rosen shares children’s books on a radio show in England, and he’s written more than 140 books himself, according to Wikipedia. But the first page of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book seems to be sending a message – that everyone gets unhappy…even celebrities! “This is me being sad,” Rosen writes, next to a cartoonish picture of a man smiling. “Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture. Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy.

“I’m doing that because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.”

I have to applaud the honesty of Rosen’s book, and his message about sadness has an undeniable credibility. “What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. He died,” Rosen writes. “I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.” Rosen’s son died of meningitis in 2004 at the age of 19. “Sometimes this makes me really angry.”

There’s simple illustrations of the little boy in a bathtub or playing soccer. And the cartoonish pictures by Quentin Blake seem important, since they soften the edges of Rosen’s sorrowful text. “Eddie doesn’t say anything because he’s not here anymore,” Rosen writes. “Sometimes I want to talk about all this to someone. Like my mum. But she’s not here anymore, either.” And sometimes, he doesn’t want to talk about it at all.

Sometimes he shouts in the shower, or bangs a spoon on the table, or makes his cheeks go “whooph, booph, whooph.” And sometimes he does bad things, when he won’t reveal because “it’s not fair to the cat.” Sometimes there’s a grey cloud hanging over him, which he describes as a sadness that things aren’t the same. And Blake captures this perfectly, as four drawings show the man passing a tree, as the background turns grayer and grayer, until suddenly it’s raining.

Rosen reminds himself that everyone feels sad. He reminds himself that sad is different than bad. He tries to do things he can feel proud of. He tries to have a good time at least once a day. “And sometimes I write about sad.” It can be anywhere, any time, anyone…”

This book was selected as an exceptional book by the English Association in 2004, and to Rosen’s credit, he includes those moments when he re-awakens to the world. There’s faces at a window, the people on a train, memories of his mother, memories of Eddie, “And birthday… I love birthdays. Not just mine – other people’s as well.”

“And candles. There must be candles.”

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