Hearing about the imminent arrival of a new meningitis vaccine, I thought immediately of one of the best books I have ever read.

I bought Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (Michael Rosen & Quentin Blake, London: Walker Books, 2004) a few years ago, mainly as a way of exploring the meaning and expression (and alrightness) of sadness with my daughter.

Re-reading it now, I am again struck by its wonderfulness, by Rosen’s ability to convey sadness so meaningfully in few words, and which is so imaginatively enhanced by Blake’s drawings.

The book arose from Rosen’s grief following the sudden death of his 18 year old son Eddie from meningitis in 1999. Primarily about his sadness over the loss of Eddie, it also includes the loss of his mother, as well as loss in general as part of all our lives.

Rosen challenges pre-conceptions. The very first image is that of a grinning Rosen. Below the picture he writes:

‘This is me being sad.’

‘…pretending I’m being happy.

I’m doing that because I think people won’t

like me if I look sad.’

On page 3 we are introduced to Eddie:

‘What makes me most sad is when I think

about my son Eddie. He died.’

We see images of Eddie as a child, playing and happy, and then a blank panel, where Eddie should be:

‘…he’s not there any more.’

Although a hugely personal book, there is much here that is generalisable:

Sad is ‘anywhere’, ‘any time’, ‘anyone’:

‘It comes along and finds you.’

And much that is positive:

‘Every night I try to do one thing I can be proud of.’

‘I’m sad, not bad.’

‘Everyday I do one thing that means

I have a good time.’

Rosen also remembers the good times, and shows the power of memory to make loss bearable, and the act of remembering even potentially joyful.

An absolute gem of a book, on a topic that is corporate and universal and touches all our lives.

CQ

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