October 2-8, 2011 is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. The goal of this week is to end the stigma associated with mental illness, and ensure better understanding and access to diagnosis and treatment. There are a number of Canadian children’s books with mental illness themes that can help young readers understand these conditions. Below is the list of Mental Illness books that appeared in the summer 2011 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News.
Picture Books, Junior Fiction and Non-Fiction for Kindergarten to Grade 5
Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s DepressionWritten by Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthIllustrated by Joe Weissmann(Tundra Books, 2009)Alex’s father has begun to suffer from depression. Alex’s questions are those often asked by children in this situation. In simple, straightforward language, the book explains what depression is and how it is treated, prepares a child for working with a helping professional, and, most importantly, it tells a child that he or she is not alone.
Edward the “Crazy Man”Written and illustrated by Marie Day(Annick Press, 2002)A young boy makes an effort to help one
man and change perceptions about homelessness and schizophrenia. Issued in 2002, the book was recently adapted for theatre by the noted playwright, Emil Sher.
Meeting Miss 405(Orca Young Reader)Writte by Lois Peterson(Orca Book Publishers, 2008)Life is hard for Tansy — her depressed mother goes away, and her dad is making a mess of things at home. The new babysitter, Miss Stella, has a unique perspective on life, and Tansy eventually warms to the changes she’s experiencing.
Odd Man OutWritten by Sarah Ellis(Groundwood Books, 2006)Summering with his grandmother and five eccentric cousins, Kip finds a mysterious report in a binder — and eventually discovers disturbing news about his late father. Quirky, funny, insightful and multi-layered, Odd Man Out won the 2007 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.
Out of the BoxWritten by Michelle Mulder(Orca Book Publishers, 2011)Staying with her aunt in Victoria, Ellie gains independence and friendship but also reluctantly realizes that her mother has a mental illness — and that it is beyond Ellie’s capabilities to solve this herself.
Senior Fiction for Grades 6 to 8
Almost EdenWritten by Anita Horrocks(Tundra Books, 2006)Elsie’s mother has been hospitalized with depression. Mental illness is not discussed
in her close-knit Mennonite community. Elsie thinks that the breakdown is her fault. She bargains with God to make her mother well again. Her conversations, her struggle to overcome guilt and her desire to prove herself are laced with a wicked wit and clarity of vision.
The Crazy ManWritten by Pamela Porter(Groundwood Books, 2005)Emaline’s family has been devastated by a terrible farm accident, and her mother hires Angus, a patient from the local mental hospital, to work their fields. Though the small town’s prejudice creates a cloud of suspicion around Angus that nearly results in tragedy, in the end he becomes a force for healing.
Winner of the 2006 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.
A Perfect Gentle KnightWritten by Kit Pearson(Penguin Books, 2008)The Bell children are trying to deal with
their mother’s death and their father’s benign neglect. Fourteen-year-old Sebastian
starts a game of Knights of the Round Table with his siblings as a form of escape. But his younger sister, Corrie, gradually starts to wonder if Sebastian is losing his grip on reality.
Senior Non-Fiction and Fiction for Grades 9 to 12
AfterWritten by Francis Chalifour(Tundra Books, 2005)Time, counselling, family and friends help 15-year-old Francis heal after his father’s suicide. An acclaimed autobiographical first novel, this story is steeped in sadness, but ultimately ends in hope.
Gravity JournalWritten by Gail Sidonie Sobat(Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2008)Struggling with anorexia and living in the psych ward, Anise wonders about the point of it all. She turns to her journal to make observations, to dream and to decide whether to live or die.
Me, Myself and Ikewritten by K.L. Denman(Orca Book Publishers, 2010)Kit’s friend Ike is urging him to become the next Ice Man — the ancient hunter
whose frozen body was discovered in 1991. Increasingly alienated, paranoid and
confused, Kit finds Ike’s arguments very persuasive. A powerful picture of schizophrenia and a Governor General’s Literary Award nominee.
My Kind of Sad: What It’s Like to Be Young and DepressedWritten by Kate ScowenIllustrated by Jeff Szuc(Annick Press, 2006)Adolescent depression has only been medically recognized in the past 25 years. This book lays out the facts on moodiness, depression and being a teen. From the factors that affect how you feel to the signs of serious depression, it explores youth-specific mental health issues and gives expert advice on how to help a friend or where to find help for oneself.
The Perfect Cutwritten by Julie Burtinshaw(Raincoast Books, 2008)After the death of his sister, Bryan feels alive only when he cuts his skin with a razor. He hasn’t cut deep enough to cause any real damage… yet.
Pieces of Mewritten by Charlotte GingrasTranslated by Susan Ouriou(Kids Can Press, 2009)Desperately lonely, Mira struggles with a mentally ill mother and with her own depression. Her new friend Catherine opens up her world, but friendship doesn’t come easily. Then, shattered by her father’s sudden death, she must learn to fit together the “pieces of me.” Beautifully written and powerful.
Shadow BoxingWritten by Sherie Posesorski(Coteau Books, 2009)As Alice struggles to deal with her mother’s death, her father’s rejection and her aunt’s coldness, she begins to cut herself. Her cousin has her own self-esteem issues, and Alice must find the strength to get them both out of their downward spiral.
thinandbeautiful.comWritten by Liane Shaw(Second Story Press, 2009)Maddie is in rehab to overcome her eating disorder. She doesn’t believe that anything is wrong with her nor that she needs help. Will a tragedy change her mind?
The Blue HelmetWilliam Bell(Random House of Canada, 2006)Lee, in trouble with the police and feeling lost, struggles to mend his broken world. An unlikely friend — a peacekeeping veteran plagued by his own demons — shows him that he must face the war inside himself.
Scarswritten by Cheryl Rainfield(WestSide Books, 2010)Kendra cuts herself to forget the horrific sexual abuse she endured as a child but she cannot remember her abuser’s identity. She needs to explore her past in order to set herself free. An edgy, realistic and hopeful novel and a Governor General’s Literary Award nominee.
TyrannyWritten and illustrated by Lesley Fairfield(Tundra Books, 2010)This graphic novel tells the story of Anna’s
battle with an eating disorder. Personifying her tormentor as Tyranny, she struggles to rise from the abyss and find answers that are far from simple.