The final book in the BBC 4 programme was Michael Rosen’s Sad Book sadThe blurb on the jacket says this: What makes him most sad is thinking about his son, Eddie, who died.  In this book he writes about his sadness, how it affects him and some of the things he does to try to cope with it.

I had seen Michael Rosen at the Edinburgh Book Festival  some years ago. A small child asked him how many children he had, as his work is so full of references to them. The poet hesitated and then said he had 4 but I used to have 5. One died. Eddie died 4 months ago. This is the first time I’ve said this in a public place. I knew it had to come.

At the time I was enormously struck by the man’s dignity and honesty. A large audience – around 500, many of whom were young – saw this famous person showing his vulnerability. He recovered himself with great grace and finished the session on a positive note.

That integrity shines out from this book. On the first page is a drawing (Quentin Blake of course) of Michael grinning. The text says: This is me being sad. Maybe you think I’m being happy in this picture. Really I’m being sad but pretending to be happy. I’m doing that because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.

He goes on to describe how he feels when he is sad and how he handles this feeling. Sometimes because I’m sad I do crazy things – like shouting in the shower … banging a spoon on the table … or making my cheeks go whooph, booph, whooph. Sometimes because I’m sad I do bad things. I can’t tell you what they are. They are too bad. And it’s not fair on the cat.

And he notes that everyone has sad stuff. I’m not the only one. Maybe you have some too.

In my very first post I quoted Bruno Bettelheim (himself more entitled than most to be sad as a survivor of the concentration camps) and noted how crucial it is for adults to help young people to recognise and deal with their pain and sorrow.

Stories are one of the most fundamental means by which we gain control over the world around us. Telling children stories (and getting them to tell their own) encourages the move away from egocentricity, provides models of rationality and order and resolution, gives permission to experience – at  one remove – violent and passionate feelings in a safe, because unreal (though not untrue) world. Making sense of an experience is thus to a very great extent being able to construct a plausible story about it. We become able to look at ourselves through looking at and thinking about others.

The book makes me weep, releases unrecognised sadness in me, hopefully enables me to resolve some of these feelings: I think it will do the same for many. Buy it and share it with your children!

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