Anne Booth is a favourite in this house, her Lucy Books and Magical Kingdom of Birds have a gentle kindness woven into the pages even when they sometimes deal with situations children may find challenging, which is why it is lovely to see Anne turn her hand to dealing with emotions in a picture book.
Similarly the artwork of David Litchfield is truly stunning and utterly emotional, evocative of childhood imagination and honestly a feel like magic is sparkling in every stroke, and it’s lovely to see these two talents come together.
A Shelter for Sadness is a tale of a child making space for sadness and allowing it to be nurtured and comforted with the passing of seasons both of the heart and year.
It reminds me of the project that Jim and his dad Ralph built on The Big Flower Fight (Netflix) where they built an earthworks ‘Anxiety Monster’ that had an area to sit within the mouth of the monster supposedly to represent how Jim felt within his anxiety but it was remarked how seemingly paradoxically it felt peaceful and safe within.
Inspired by the words of a Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum which encourages people to respect and recognise their sorrow, for if we all accept this emotion within us we will not fill the space for sorrow inside us up with spite, hatred and revenge to avoid the pain of sadness. Etty Hillesum further argued that when we have fully accepted the capacity for sadness only then can we truly appreciate the beauty and joy of life.
For some especially older generations this may be a bit uncomfortable, even counter-intuitive and seem to enable depression or ‘wallowing’ in our sadness but really, it does make sense.
Keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘sucking it up’ is far more counterintuitive by repressing and attaching shame or weakness to the full spectrum of emotions leading to greater instability and deeper psychological and emotional pain if one cannot ‘deal’ with them, worse it may be passed down generations.
Many children’s books have been embracing this healthier approach to empathy and emotional awareness by encouraging and modelling to readers that the full spectrum of emotions is normal, natural and necessary and that sadness and anger don’t have to be BAD emotions unless they are hurting you or others.
Examples that have made onto our Self-Care shelf include Ahn’s Anger, When Sadness Comes to Call, Sweep and My Monster & Me all move with this healthier approach to mental health, resilience and emotional intelligence and A Shelter for Sadness definitely deserves a space amongst these.
The message feels comforting and uplifting throughout; like Riley (and Joy) in Inside Out learn after a breakdown that feelings are not binary, they are complicated and the value of the bittersweet is painful but beautiful too- Anne & David show us that only by recognising and valuing Sadness can we truly recognise and value the good and Joy in our memories and life.
With a glowing natural tones palette and sparkles of firefly-like and fairy lights throughout David Litchfield’s illustrations anchor Sadness as a part of the natural world and seasons of the soul. It is a truly stunning book visually and this brings an extra magic to Anne’s words as we see how making room and comfort for Sadness, letting it have its place is what opens our eyes to the beauty which is in EVERY page alongside Sadness even in the exquisite dark and light juxtaposition.
A truly beautiful, deep and meaningful book that encourages self care and kindness in mental health, normalising the need to embrace the rain so we can appreciate the flowers and rainbows.
A Shelter for Sadness – by Anne Booth & illustrated by David Litchfield is published by Templar Books
Thank you so much for my copy. 💜