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Michael Rosen's Sad Book (Boston Globe-Horn Book Honors (Awards)) Hardcover – February 3, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 3 Up–This is a personal and moving account of the author's experiences with grief over the loss of his son and mother and various ways of dealing with the melancholy that attends it. "Sometimes sad is very big. It's everywhere. All over me." The gentle text assures readers that despair, anger, and hopelessness are common feelings when dealing with death, but that memories of happier times can elicit a spark of joy and optimism for the future. "And then I remember things. My mum in the rain. Eddie walking along the street, laughing and laughing and laughing." Blake's evocative watercolor-and-ink illustrations use shades of gray for the pictures where sadness has taken hold but brighten with color at the memory of happy times. This story is practical and universal and will be of comfort to those who are working through their bereavement. A brilliant and distinguished collaboration.–Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When we first received this book, I wanted to review it quickly and get it out of the way. It was so sad. Instead, I pushed it aside and kept pushing it aside--for the same reason. Finally, the book was getting late; it was time to deal with it. As I sat down to write, I realized that my reaction to Rosen and Blake's provocative collaboration was based on the same impulses people have who are faced with real grief: deal with it quickly and say it's done, or sweep it under the rug for a time and then, finally, look at it squarely and begin the struggle.

The book begins with a head shot of Rosen: "This is me being sad." But the picture shows him smiling, at least until you look more closely. Then you realize that the twist of his lips and teeth forms a grimace. The text goes on to say he's pretending because he thinks people won't like him if he's sad. In a clipped, first-person text, Rosen relates that he's sad because his son, Eddie, has died. Illustrated snaps of Eddie in Blake's signature scrawl show him as a baby, a boy, a teen. The last frame is blank. The extent of Rosen's rage is staggering, but it's quiet, not loud (wouldn't want to scare the children, eh?). It pierces with its honesty: "Sometimes because I'm sad I do bad things. I can't tell you what they are. They're too bad. And it's not fair to the cat." (And, yes, kids will understand that this is black humor.)

When the book is at its darkest--and Blake's black-and-gray line work wrests every bit of the agony from the understated words--there is despair. The ways in which Rosen tries to comfort himself--by rationalizing that everyone has his or her own pain or by trying to do things he is proud of--only work a little. An adult reader may wonder at this point, Is the book even for young people? Is it too self-indulgent?

To think that would be to dismiss the truth we all try to hide from: sadness is part of the human condition. Children know this as well as adults and perhaps feel it even more keenly since they haven't had as much time to develop defenses. This book tells them what they already intuit, and while you might not want to give it to a child who, at the moment is happy, you would most certainly want to give it to one who is sad. It shows children that they are not alone, and it does so brilliantly.

And Rosen is not left in total despair. As time passes, he begins to look at things more intently, and those moments push up happier memories, some even about Eddie. Remembrances of birthdays bring to mind candles: "There must be candles." This slow evolution allows Blake to lighten his pictures both in color and underlying spirit. The last spread shows Rosen sitting at a table, unshaven, focused intently on one lit candle, which one hopes is bright enough to lead him to a better place.

This book's power is in its utter honesty. No couching, no prettying up. It's as if Rosen and Blake are taking readers by the hand and saying, "C'mon, let's look at this now. Sadness, yes. Here it is." But they pull you just past the heartbreak, too. The journey from grief to a glimmer of hope is a long, often lonely one, but there's relief in knowing that it's possible. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Boston Globe-Horn Book Honors (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Library Binding edition (February 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763625973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763625979
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.4 x 11.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Rosen, an English poet, scriptwriter, broadcaster, and performer, has been writing for children since 1970. He lives in London with his wife and five children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Esme R. Codell on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I opened this book, I figured it was just going to be one of those books along the lines of "when mommy goes to work, I'm sad until she gets home" or "I'm sad when I stub my toe," but no, this book isn't about little sad, it's about big, big grown up sad: the author's exploration of his own grief upon losing his son. When I opened the book to the last wordless page I burst out crying (both times I read it), and initially felt very strongly that this was not a book for children. But on further reflection, this may very well be a book for some children, and more than that it is a great piece of art: honest and beautiful even though it is very painful to read. Really, it is the epitome of a marriage between writer and illustrator...the words tell what the pictures can't always say, and the pictures tell what words can't always express. Anyone who is interested in the power of a book needs to have a look at this one. And thank you to this team for being so brave...I am very sorry for the author's loss, but grateful for this and other books both he and Quentin Blake have given to the world.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on May 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be."

--The Beatles

Nearly ten years ago, back when I was the new Children's and YA buyer at Copperfield's, I had a business meeting with RDR Books publisher Roger Rapoport.

The most significant aspect of that meeting with Roger was his leaving me with a sample copy of the utterly delightful, Quentin Blake-illustrated, THE BEST OF MICHAEL ROSEN (Wetlands Press, 1995, ISBN: 1-57143-046-6). And the most significant aspect of THE BEST OF MICHAEL ROSEN (which is overflowing with Rosen's funny poems and tales) is a story titled, "Eddie and the Birthday."

"Eddie and the Birthday

(Eddie is my second son)

When Eddie had his second birthday

he got lots of cards,

and he had a cake and all kinds of presents

and we sang Happy Birthday,

'Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday, dear Eddie...'

and all that.

He liked that very much

So he goes:

'More. Sing it again.'

So we sang it again.

'Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday, dear Eddie...'

and all that.

And he goes,

'More. Sing it again.'

So we sang it again.

'Happy Birthday to you

da de da de da, dear Eddie

da de da to you...'

And he goes,

'More. Sing it again.'

It felt like we sang Happy Birthday about

Two hundred and twenty-three times.

And the candles. On the cake.

He loved them.

'Eddie, blow.'

He blew.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a sad book, a very sad book. It is aptly titled. Yes, it's unlike the majority of books intended for young readers. There aren't any rhymes or happy endings. It's a story, more of a journal really about the way Michael Rosen is trying to cope with the death of his son, Eddie.

Why give a sad book to children? Because there are times when we are sad, life is sad. However, this book is also about love and how very much Rosen loved his son. It's also a book about possibilities. All the things you can do when your life seems bleak. Maybe we can't be too young to learn these lessons.

Rosen talks about trying to look happy because he thinks people won't like him if he looks sad, and he mentions trying to do one thing he can be proud of every day. Then, when he goes to bed he tries to think about that rather than the fact that Eddie is no longer with him. He doesn't sidestep the anger he feels at Eddie's death or the memories that flood his mind.

Quentin Blake has won numerous awards for his illustrations, deservedly so. He illustrates this book not just with watercolor and ink but also with empathetic awareness.

This is a very honest book that cannot fail to touch hearts, and it may perhaps teach young ones to be kind and relish every day.

- Gail Cooke
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Picture books that help children deal with death tend, by and large, to be about animals. There's, "Dog Heaven" and "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney", and other books along these lines. "Charlotte's Web" even comes to mind. But try coming up with a children's book that'll help kids deal with the death of another child and the well begins to run dry. Even if you do find something, it'll tend to be along the lines of books like (I kid you not), "Sad Isn't Bad (Elf-Help Books For Kids)". Credit Michael Rosen with penning a deeply personal and moving book to help children that springs from his own personal loss. Books that deal with death almost never are so well-written that they win awards. But here is one sad book that proves the exception to the rule.

You open the book and there's the picture of a man grinning from ear to ear. The words say, "This is me being sad". And right off the bat kids begin to understand that being sad isn't just a face with tears or a downturned mouth. Reading on we see how occasionally Michael Rosen is consumed with sadness over the death of his son Eddie. We see pictures of Eddie growing up, with a final blank one where his life was at an end. Mostly, though, this book is about dealing with the loss of someone young. Michael talks about how he discusses his pain with friends or just thinks about it by himself, "Because it's mine. And no one else's". Sometimes Michael feels like doing crazy things because he's sad and sometimes depression will hit him in the middle of a sunny day out of the blue. From here, the book tells the reader how to deal with being sad. "I tell myself that being sad isn't the same as being horrible. I'm sad, not bad". He does things that make himself feel better and talks about how misery can hit anyone anytime.
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Michael Rosen's Sad Book (Boston Globe-Horn Book Honors (Awards))
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