Written by Rachel Woodworth Illustrated by Sang Miao
Published by Flying Eye Books ISBN: 978-1-911171-33-1
Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster
As humans we are creatures of emotion that somehow managed to build civilisations. The logical side of our egos tends to be what we like to present to others as our competent selves. This story explores how a young child experiences emotions and the reason why those feelings can be described as “Mad, sad, glad and mad sad smiling-ear-to-ear glad.”
It’s a hardback book aimed at young children, and the design shows variety in the use of spreads, with two and four panel pages that help to shape the environment the young girl is responding to. The text is set in a clean typeface that includes hand-rendered elements which add emphasis.
Sang Miao’s illustrations set the mood perfectly as our young protagonist navigates her world – the domestic as well as the surreal; they are lush, rich and warm. On several pages there are subtle references to the complexity of domestic life. The ‘imagination’ section of the book is where her creativity comes into its own. Loose brushstrokes and earthy tones evoke the mystery of the world just beyond our own reality, and the printing on non-coated paper aids this perfectly.
The human mind can wander in an invented space, and this can help us resolve or come to terms with the challenges of emotional stress. The reader is being shown how to cope and to recognise that our feelings are important. Stories that depict the struggles and emotions of young children (including ‘Words and Your Heart’ by Kate Jane Neal) are becoming more common, and this book is an impressive addition to this list.
Written in the first person we get to see how daily life impacts on feelings and coping mechanisms. There is a rhythm to the writing that is mostly joyful and shows that the girl on “Mad, sad noisy days” has control of how she negotiates a life dominated with the agenda of others. A simple but effective tale illustrated using attractive shapes and symbolism to capture that which adults mostly forget. So embrace the inner child and remember that civilisation is here to serve our emotional needs too.