Title: I’m Sad
Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018
When I was a kid, my parents had, like, two parenting books to read. One of them was Dr. Spock. The other was a book of parenting jokes that someone had given to them when I was born. So they didn’t have a whole lot to go on other than well-meaning advice, gut feelings and very sparse expert guidance. These days, it’s a whole different story. There are eighty-billion parenting books, all telling you the many ways you might permanently psychologically damage your offspring.
And man, it’s stressful. That’s why I eat chocolate, people. That’s why.
What does any of this have to do with today’s book? Well, one of the things many of the parenting books (and websites and Twitter feeds and blogs…) talk about is how to deal with your children’s emotions. And sadness? That’s a biggie. Don’t mess that one up or you’re in trouble.
I TRY my very best to be okay with my kiddos not being happy all the time. Actually, if they’re mad or tired or curious or any number of other emotions, I’m absolutely fine with it. But sadness? I think it’s the default reaction of most people to want to just whisk it away. Just…don’t BE sad! It’s a message we get all the time: happy is good. Sad is bad. But is it? No, of course not. It’s normal and natural and sometimes totally, completely, 100% warranted (note to my children: not getting the Shopkins you wanted doesn’t fall into this category…at least not for more than five minutes).
That’s why I really, really liked I’m Sad by the wonderfully talented Michael Ian Black and artiste extraordinaire, Debbie Ridpath Ohi. This book follows characters we met in I’m Bored – the little girl, the flamingo and (my favourite) the potato. In I’m Sad, the flamingo is feeling blue. She* doesn’t really explain why, but she just IS. And you know what? The little girl and the potato are absolutely fine with that. Sure, they try to cheer her up, but when it becomes obvious that whatever’s on the flamingo’s mind isn’t going to go away easily, they’re fine with her mood. They reassure her that they still like her (well, except the potato…who makes a joke that DOES get the flamingo giggling and makes her feel a bit better). They accept her for whatever she is feeling.
Which is such a tremendously powerful message for kids to hear. It’s fine to feel what you’re feeling. And maybe it’ll go away quickly, and maybe not. But your friends are there for you, regardless.
And the art. Can we talk about it for a second? It’s great. I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s style. It feels a bit reminiscent of Mo Willems’ art, in its simplicity and how well it conveys the characters’ emotions. The colour palette is lovely and the pictures are just a lot of fun to look at. I also like the different font styles used for each characters’ dialogue.
My kids had the following thoughts (this is after the fifth reading, mind you. Our library books get a good workout.):
Lily: “The best part was when the potato made the flamingo laugh. That was so friendly.”
Vivi: “The whole book is great. Sadness is something kids should talk about.”
And, of course, not to be left out, Karl: “The ending was really strong. And I really liked the art.”
As for me, I think I’m Sad is a gentle, kind, reassuring read. It’s the type of book all kids need to read. We will definitely be getting a copy to add to our collection!
Lily’s Rating: All the flamingos
Vivi’s Rating: A+
Mama’s Rating: Five potatoes out of five
*Note: we don’t really know the gender of the flamingo, but in this house…everything is a girl. Sorry, Karl.