My Happy Sad Mummy by Michelle Vasiliu

cover image

Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. JoJo Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9780987358684
My Happy Sad Mummy is a first in my experience; a picture book specifically written to explain bipolar disorder for a pre-school audience. Written to fill a need the author herself discovered, whilst searching for an aid to explain her own mental illness to her young children, this book will be an invaluable resource for families living the same experience.
Written from the point of view of a young child whose mother has days when she is so happy, talkative and active that she doesn't want to stop, and other days when she cries all day, sleeps and does not interact with the enthusiastic child. Dad explains that Mum is ill and sometimes needs medication and other times, needs to go to hospital to be looked after. When that happens, Grandpa and Grandma come to help look after her.
The text is easy to read, factual and to the point;
'Sometimes Mummy's very happy. Sometimes she is very sad.
Sometimes Mummy's in hospital. Sometimes she's at home.'
The muted full page illustrations add more layers of meaning to the story as we see the child worried and anxious, but also witness the mother's highs and lows. The joy shown by both in the final illustration gives hope for a positive future.
In the forward by Professor Phillip Mitchell, director of the Black Dog Institute, we are reminded that as bipolar disorder ' . . . usually begins in late adolescence, or during the twenties, many with this condition will be young parents.' To have a resource available which so simply and sympathetically, portrays the illness can only be an advantage to both families and the wider community in de-mystifying this particular mental illness.
Sue Keane