Review Blog

Jul 29 2014

Happy Pants by Heather Gallagher

cover image

Ill. by Liz McGrath. Wombat Books, 2014. ISBN 9781921632938.
(Age: Pre-school - 2) 'When mummy wears her happy pants we build sandcastles, go out for babycinos and have lots and lots of cuddles.' But things change dramatically when she comes home with Baby Darcy - her happy pants stay in the wardrobe. No matter what, there is no more happy mummy. Even though Daddy steps up, there's nothing quite like a happy mum. Feeling betrayed and confused when nothing he does works, things come to a head for the family when the happy pants are accidentally ripped and the little boy asks, 'How can you put a band-aid on your heart?' Even though the focus is on sad feelings, Liz McGrath's bright illustrations keep it from being a sombre story and there is such a feeling of hope towards the end that you just know mummy will have her happy pants on again one day.
With perinatal depression affecting one in seven women, this is an important book to have in the library's collection so that young children who are in such a situation can learn that they're not the only child with a sad mummy, it is not their fault and that things can get better. Primarily written for a preschool audience, nevertheless there are many in the F-2 cohort who are welcoming new siblings and who must be at risk of being in a family where PND happens.
At the same time, it has a place in your parents' collection so sufferers and their partners can understand that help is available. It includes a range of organisations that can offer support for those who suffer, and their families, but it's most important purpose, in my opinion, is to bring this condition into the open where it can be talked about as a common occurrence, not something that is to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. It is more than just 'baby blues'. Normalising it through a children's picture book is a powerful way to do this, particularly if it is promoted through your links with the new parents in your community.
There's an interview with the author that is worth reading.
Barbara Braxton

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