“The Color Thief” by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters allows children (around 4 to 8 years old) to begin understanding depression and how it impacts adults. In this book, a little boy shares his experience of losing his father to depression. The first page shows a world of color & states, “My dad’s life was full of color. Every day, clouds smiled at him and trees waved hello.” The next page, shows his father’s growing sadness and the boy's Dad fades into a world without color. Midway through the book, the dad gets help and the color begins to reappear. “Dad went to see important people at a hospital. They told him he was very ill & gave him medicine for his mind. And they found him someone to talk to, someone who listened.” After that page, the colors begin to return and there is definitely a sense of hope. The last page of the book states, “My dad was back. He smiled and all the colors were bright all around us.”
There are so many reasons to really appreciate this book. Here are my top five:
1) The book offers hope. The dad does get help and does feel better. At the same time, the book makes it clear that this process took time. "Months were stretchy like chewing gum."
2) The book externalizes the depression. It is something his Dad has and is working through. This book also explains depression in a way that kids can understand. It is more than just sadness that comes and goes. Kids can understand color and how depression feels like a loss of color.
3) The story never provides a specific explanation for Dad’s depression, which means
kids can relate regardless of their situation. I used this book as a jumping-off point for this past Wednesday's adult art therapy group I lead and one client noted, “There is no Mom in the book. I wonder if that is why the Dad was depressed?”
4) Feelings are clearly stated. The little boy is impacted by his Dad’s depression. Mid book, the little boy shares, “I felt lonely. There was a heavy feeling inside me & I missed my dad. I missed the sound of his laugh & his smiling eyes.” Yes! This. Any book in which
feelings are stated clearly & openly is a good book for kids, in my opinion. We need more books that normalize feelings.
5) This book opens the door & makes it OK for tough topics to be discussed. It might be hard for a kid to reflect directly on their own experiences of having a loved one with depression. Direct questions might shut down the conversation; a child might feel embarrassed or feel they are to blame in some way. Or a child might feel like they have to protect their parents. Any of those things can make talking about depression in one’s family hard. Relating to a character in a book can be a less intimidating way to start the conversation. I know in my group, there were clients who related to the boy, clients who related to the Dad and clients who shared about being both at different times in their life. They all noted that they wished this book had existed when they were young. So even though this book was written for children, it’s one that adults can appreciate as well. Please, let me know if you get a chance to read it and what your thoughts are on it? Also, any other books I should add to my collection?