Charlie and the Dog Who Came to Stay
Dr Ruth Spence and Kimiya Pahlevan
"The dog likes to lie across Charlie's shoulders. It is a very big, heavy dog so it takes all her energy to carry it around."
After moving house, a girl named Charlie makes friends with a large black dog called Depression. Whether crushing her beneath its weight, or howling in her ear, we see the negative ways this relationship impacts on Charlie. Depression "does not like Charlie doing anything without it, so Charlie does not like to do much anymore."
Luckily, Charlie's mother notices how unhappy and tired Charlie has become. Together, they discuss how Charlie is feeling and explore ways to make her feel better. Slowly, the dog gets smaller and quieter, until it doesn't bother Charlie any more.
Now that Charlie has learned how to handle this animal, she will recognise any signs of it growing larger again. The skills that Charlie has learned, and the understanding she has gained, will enable her to control the dog before it gets too big.
Charlie and the Dog Who Came to Stay uses a simple concept, which children can easily understand, to explore a more complex issue. It captures the oppressive nature of depression and how it can sneak up on you at any time. It's great how this explains that depression does not necessarily go away, and that we might have to learn to live with it.
The illustrations are colourful and child-friendly and convey lots of emotion. The dog is portrayed as awkward rather than menacing, but Charlie's discomfort is obvious. There are lots of details and items from everyday life to engage younger readers.
This story offers children and adults an insight into childhood depression, and how it can be managed. It empowers young people and their parents by showing warning signs of, as well as techniques to help overcome, this condition. Talking points and suggested activities are included at the back of the book, and there are more on the author's website.
Dr Ruth Spence is a pyschologist who wrote Charlie and the Dog Who Came to Stay to support young people and families affected by childhood depression. This book is an effective way of increasing awareness and understanding of mental health, and reducing stigma. It equips readers with tools that will help them recognise and combat depression in themselves and in others, should they ever need to.
Educating children about mental health encourages empathy and compassion towards those affected by it. Being familiar with this subject will hopefully help children become adults who are kind to other people, and kind to themselves, whenever the "black dog" appears.
Purchase this book from the author's website
A percentage of the profits from the sale of each copy will be donated to Shawmind, a charity committed to helping individuals and organisations understand mental health.
About the author...
Dr Ruth Spence is a research psychologist who has been working in academia for a while and is currently at Middlesex University. Her research focuses on mental health, including common disorders like depression and anxiety, as wellas attachment and life events. Although she has published in academic journals, she decided to write a picture book so she could reach children and families that might be affected by mental health issues. She hopes the book can put the research into practice in a useful way that can help those that need it. Ruth lives in London with her two children and her partner Ben.
About the illustrator...
Born in 2001 in Iran, Kimiya Pahlevan has been interested in art for as long as she can remember. She even wrote two short stories and illustrated them with markers and colored pencils when she was seven. Kimiya moved to Vancouver, Canada at the age of 16 and is currently a student at the University of Victoria. She works in different mediums such as photography and digital illustration. Charlie and the Black Dog is the first published book , Kimiya has illustrated, which she is very excited about. See more of her illustrations on her Instagram page, @kimiillustrates.
Dr Ruth Spence kindly provided me with a copy of this book to review - all opinions are my own.