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I mentioned over on my Instagram account last week and on this Facebook post, that I’ll be featuring more content this year that is based around mental health. It’s a huge part of my life and so it seems silly to avoid writing about it, especially as I have found that it’s actually quite cathartic and useful for me to get all my thoughts down on paper, so to speak.
Mr Gresty, author of ‘One For Sorrow’ got in touch with me at the end of 2018 and asked if I’d be interested in reading his new children’s book with Luke and reviewing it on Lukeosaurus And Me. After delving a little deeper, I knew immediately that this was a classic in the making and a really important piece of children’s literature.
Why? Because One For Sorrow is a beautifully written and illustrated story that gently introduces children to the subject of mental health.
Most of us are familiar with the old One For Sorrow nursery rhyme: ‘One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret, never to be told. Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss, ten for a bird you must not miss.’
The rhyme is based on a superstition that the number of magpies you see that day relates to your future. Well that rhyme features two of One For Sorrow’s magpie characters: Sorrow and Joy.
It’s important to note that, despite the title and narrative, this book does have a happy ending – empathised by the big, shiny sticker on the front cover!
In the story, Sorrow, a magpie, wakes up to find that he has lost his Joy. Throughout the next few magnificently illustrated pages, Sorrow’s story is told to us through eloquently written rhyme. Sorrow flies from his tree to search in the fog, but despite how hard he looks, he cannot find Joy. He flies back to the garden and searches their tree once more, before saying “I feel so alone, maybe friends could help me?” One by one, he asks his friends about Joy. Sadly, his friends aren’t that helpful and instead of looking for Joy or talking to Sorrow about how lonely and sad he is feeling, they reply to him with phrases such as, “don’t be a sad boy” and “try not to fear”.
These phrases replay in Sorrow’s mind and make him feel even more upset and lonely. Eventually, disheartened and alone, he flies off, causing him to meet a wise old owl. As our little magpie tells the wise owl his story, the fog begins to clear. Joy is there with him on the rooftop and, just like the fog, Sorrow’s worries vanish from sight and Joy promises to “fly with him both day and night.”
Mental Health As A Topic Of Conversation With Children
It is safe to say that I am a huge fan of One For Sorrow and I am so thankful for brilliant writers like Mr Gresty who broach the subject in a gently and easily digestible manner.
As someone who has realised retrospectively that I suffered with anxiety from a very young age, I wholeheartedly agree with teaching children about mental health. I think it’s a subject that affects everyone at some point in their lives and it should be openly discussed with children. One For Sorrow offers parents, carers and maybe even teachers the opportunity to gently introduce mental health as subject of conversation, enabling children to understand their own emotions, as well as those of the people around them.
A problem shared with the right people is a problem halved. It is as important for children to understand mental health and feel comfortable talking to someone trusted about their feelings as it is for adults to respect and validate children’s emotions.
Our Thoughts On One For Sorrow
I have nothing bad to say about this book. I think both the subject matter and the way in which it’s delivered is brilliant and I will definitely be on the lookout for other works from Mr Gresty. Luke enjoyed the style of writing; he’s a big fan of books that rhyme. I am a fan of that too – I love how easily the story flows when you read it out loud. The illustrations are stunning and accompany the story very well. Although Sorrow is clearly looking for Joy (another bird, as Luke pointed out, “you can tell by her capital J!”) the double meaning is pretty easy to understand and Luke, aged 5, understood that Sorrow was sad and was looking for his friend, but also he wanted to feel happy again.
Should You Get It? Where Can You Buy It?
If you have children at home aged between 4 – 7 or you work with children, I definitely think that One For Sorrow should be on your bookshelf. The story is fantastically executed, the writing and illustrations are great and the book itself also looks really nice. The introduction is written by the fabulously funny comedian, writer, actor and former psychiatric nurse, Jo Brand. One For Sorrow can be purchased from the Mr Gresty website – click here to visit the shop.
*We were sent a copy of One For Sorrow to read and review. All thoughts and pictures are my own.