Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Elliott, by Tobin Sprout.
Elliott is a carnival rabbit, the magic rabbit in a hat. He loves his life, and is loved by a little girl called April who comes to watch him every day at the carnival. Then one day, everything changes. Walter Wiggins, who owns the carnival decides it is time to retire. He has taught Elliott to be strong and brave, and because real magic is inside, Elliott will know what to do to cope with the change that is coming. Elliott is heartbroken, and sinks into a depression. He imagines what life would be like if he could escape and travel the world like a fish, or be brave like a champion boxer; but instead of setting out into the world, he sinks into a depression where his hat becomes his world. Not even April, the little orphan girl, can get him to leave his hat. She tries to help him, even to shake him out of his hat (how often do we hear people being told to 'snap out of it'? Such a true to life moment) but leaves defeated. Then Elliott hits rock bottom in a gut-wrenching moment: he felt as if he were shrinking inside the only world he had known. The sides of the hat were growing taller, making it harder for Elliott to see beyond them. It's hard not to well up at this point with the little rabbit sitting in the dark, his little ears flopped down and his sad, sad little face. Thankfully all is not lost. Elliott finally finds something he finds some meaning in and sets out to find April. They find the strength together to move on from the loss of the carnival and start a new life together; Elliott has finally found the magic inside.
I was really struck by the depth of the themes in this book: change, loss, depression; all in a book for kids. And for small children. As a sufferer for depression, I have really struggled to explain this to Abigail (who is 4), so this book really struck a chord with me. We were able to talk about how Elliott was feeling, how his world had shrunk down. The illustrations go a long way to show just how empty someone can feel which Abigail really related to when I talked about it with her. It also reinforces a positive message that things can get better, and just how important the support of a good friend is. There are many different circumstances which could be approached with this book - a parent leaving, the death of a family member, or just moving far, far away from where a child knows as home. Abigail loved it equally and was able to relate to some very difficult subjects with ease and has asked for it several times at bed time. Which is, of course, the mark of a wonderful book.
Thanks to the wonderful No Alibis for having this book for me to find. It really made my day x