Title: Together Things
Author: Michelle Vasiliu
Illustrator: Gwynneth Jones
Publisher: EK Books
Genre: Children’s picture book
Book format: Hardback
Description: Her dad used to be fun, but now he’s sad. As her father tries to get better, a young girl finds new ways to connect with him. He might not be able to play with her as he used to, but they can still show their love for each other. They just need to find different ‘together things’ to do.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: This is a great picture book on an important topic which some children today may face. ‘Together Things’ in hardback is about A4 in size, although a bit wider and a bit shorter, and is filled with glossy pages of colourful illustrations and some text. A young girl recalls all the wonderful together things that her and her dad like to do, including lots of outdoor adventures. But now her daddy is sick, a sickness which makes him sad, but is there any way that she can still have fun with dad like she used to?
This brilliant picture book tackles a topic which many children may have to deal with, and that is depression. The little girl’s dad (we never learn her name) becomes sick with depression, although the story doesn’t ever mention the word ‘depression’. Having a parent with depression is something which a lot of children may face, and it can be a confusing time for them as the parent is often unable to have fun with their kids like they used to and this book does a good job of depicting this change in the dad’s behaviour as he goes from someone who spent a lot of time outdoors with his daughter to one who stays inside.
As the story explains the dad’s sickness (depression) it also goes on to show how the girl feels about her dad being sick and it’s the emotions that many children might feel. I like the illustrations on these pages, as they show the dad as a tangled mess rather than a proper physical person. And the different emotions that she feels about her dad’s sickness are shown well. This story does have a good ending, the girl does accept that while her dad is sick they will have to do different things together, and the things that are suggested are things that parents with depresion could manage to do, simple things like reading together. But despite this good ending, it also feels as if it ends too fast, almost abruptly on the last page and I feel I would have liked an extra page at the end which could suggest that the depression wouldn’t last forever, perhaps showing the girl and her dad returning to a favourite activity in future (even though there are no certainties to how long depression lasts in reality).
The illustrations are good and are very different to any I’ve seen before. I’m not sure I’m a fan of seeing dad’s foot in the first double page (lol) but I do enjoy this style of pictures as they do feel very engaging. I like the way the fun together things the girl and dad do are drawn, especially when they ‘have tea with the queen’! I also like the wonderful way that dad’s depression/sadness is drawn as a continuous muddled thread, and the way the girl’s emotions are clearly seen. Both the story and the pictures together feel like they can really engage children, and adults can sit down with them and hopefully discuss how children might be feeling themselves and help them to understand what this sadness/depression is really like.
This is a lovely book to approach the subject of having a parent with depression. I like how simple the story feels and yet how well it shows the way a parent can change if they become depressed. I do still think it is missing something, perhaps I just wanted a little more detail to explain to children a little more about depression – maybe (as one reviewer has suggested) mentioning the illness by name – but apart from that, it is a good book to bring up this topic which many children may have to deal with and it ends in a way that is positive which is a good message to leave kids with.
What do you think of this book? Do you like books that help children to understand difficult topics like depression? Have you had a conversation with your kids about mental health? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂