Up and Down Mum

Parents can be so embarrassing when they behave in unusual ways – I think that most children want them to be conventional and unobtrusive. The Mum in this story is definitely not one to shrink back because, although she is fiercely loved by her daughter, she is prone to be rather over energetic, unpredictable and at times can attract attention from curious onlookers. At other times she is very sad and tired wants to hide away at home so that she can’t even accompany her daughter to school.

I liked the way in which this story emphasises all her many positive traits, like being an excellent storyteller , a great cook and an imaginative playmate, but nevertheless doesn’t shy away from focussing on her more baffling characteristics. Sometimes she has to go away from home for a rest and the girl’s jolly-looking, capable Granddad steps in to take care of his grand-daughter and to answer her questions:

“Everyone has days when they feel happier than others, but for your mum it’s more extreme,”Grandad says.

“It’s like she is riding on a roller coaster”.

The detailed, colourful illustrations really help to get the message across that there is no need for her to be worried about her Mum, just to know how to be helpful and who to ask for advice. Grandad is shown playing with an impressive railway set as he explains:

“That is why she asks for help –

To get her moving at a safe speed”.

This is an informative story that emphasises the need for support from extended family and many friends when Mum is not up to looking after her daughter. This team includes a friendly looking family therapist, social worker and describes ways in which she can call for help in an emergency.  This is a slice of family life that might be familiar to lots of young readers but that is rarely depicted in the often idealised world of picture books. It’s good to see that having a mother who sometimes needs help, takes regular medication and behaves unpredictably is just another kind of family and one that deserves to be seen. ;

‘She is My mum and I wouldn’t have her any other way!’

The final pages include useful information about living with a parent who has bipolar disorder which would be very informative for all children and practitioners. As such, it is an essential addition for any classroom and should be included with other story books. Well done to Childs Play International Publishers for producing a much needed book in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust and in close consultation with families who have a parent with bipolar disorder. I hope that others that demystify various disabilities and conditions in a similar positive way will soon follow.

Karen Argent

January 2020

(This review first appeared on the Letterpress Project website)

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