There’s a place where I go
When things make me sad.
There’s a place where I go
When good turns to bad.
Kes Gray and Lee Wildish are the writer and illustrator responsible for this 2014 book about dealing with fears and anxieties. Written in simple rhyming stanzas and making its points through metaphors, this is a heartfelt offering that may be genuinely useful to children and parents in a difficult place and will have some relevance at least to almost everyone.
The little girl pictured throughout has her own place to go when she is sad.
You can’t get there by bike,
You can’t reach it by phone.
The place where I go
Is a world of my own.
Now I confess my first response was to think this was going to be a book about using visualisation to solve your problems but as I read on I realise that (not for the first time) I had missed the point. Her mental world is indeed idyllic –
there are flowers and trees,
There’s birdsong and blue sky,
There’s honey and bees
– but the worries – yellow, spotty, amorphous blobs that turn into monsters – pursue her there and start to take over.
The metaphor then develops as she finds herself backed against a door, outside which her family and friends are gathered.
They’ve been trying to reach me.
They’ve knocked and they’ve knocked.
But the door to my world
Has always been locked.
(I’m pleased to say I had got the point by then). Eventually she is able to make her way through the door and finds her worries disappear. The book ends on the message that it is better to share problems with people who love you than to try to tackle them alone.
The next time I’m troubled,
There’s a place I will go.
Not a world of my own.
But to someone I know.
It’s a lovely concept and very well done. The pictures are bright and fun and the use of colour to convey the girl’s moods is effective. The moment quoted above, where she describes her family knocking to get through to her, is genuinely moving. The rhyme is effective in its simplicity and it’s an excellent means of conveying the desired message. The use of metaphor too is entirely appropriate and would help communicate the idea clearly to a child.
The only thing I don’t like is the moment of transition, because for me it is just a little too much. “I stare at the door. The door stares at me. Suddenly I realise I AM THE KEY!” Whilst the idea that she herself has to open her heart to her family is of course appropriate, the explanation feels over-stressed and slightly illogical. This is probably a pedantic reaction but it just jars enough to spoil an otherwise elegantly subtle text.
Overall though this is a great concept and well-executed. It’s moving and genuine and could easily help a child be comfortable about opening up about their emotions. As such it’s probably more suitable for over-threes but then probably has relevance for children up to about seven.