Meh by Deborah Malcolm

[I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.]

Meh is an engaging and engrossing picture book about a young man’s experience overcoming depression.  This young man is enjoying his life when one day, for no particular reason, a blob grabs him and drags him down into an abandoned dark and misty swamp.  He looks down and sees ghost-white paw prints that lead him to a friendly-looking feline waiting for him in a tree.  Together they leave the swamp, climb up a mountain, and struggle together — and all the while the feline is slowly turning into a lion.  At the top of the mountain they roar together and shatter their gray surroundings.  When the chaos settles — he’s back in his beautiful world savoring the sunshine with his spirit lion.

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From Meh by Deborah Malcolm © 2015. Used with Permission.

The fact that this book is wordless is very welcome — it gives a lot of freedom to the readers to reflect, project, and interpret how they best see and understand the story. Especially poignant is how the feline is open to interpretation as to what may be helping the boy get out of his depression — and creates an important opportunity for a person to imagine what help would look like for them.  Meh also includes a list of questions in the back of the book that can guide you through the story and help you elaborate on your own ideas and interpretations.

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From Meh by Deborah Malcolm © 2015. Used with Permission.

It is impressive and most appreciated that depression (or grief or sadness) is depicted as a kidnapper — so that the boy is truly seen as a victim of his depression and not the perpetrator. Also impressive is the way the spirit lion and their journey demonstrates how getting out of depression is difficult, dangerous, and requires a lot of work and strength (and is best done with someone).  These ideas may be almost impossible to explain in words to someone suffering from (or watching someone suffering from) depression, and many people with depression have a hard time hearing these words, but seeing it visualized like this amplifies these important truths.

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From Meh by Deborah Malcolm © 2015. Used with Permission.

It’s incredible that depression is so common among adults, teens, and children and yet there are not a lot of picture books directly addressing the problem.  Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree, My Depression by Elizabeth Swados, Why Are You So Sad? by Beth Andrews, and The Color Thief by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters and Karin Littlewood are a few — but really, considering how common depression is there are not many out there.

So, it is exciting to find a beautiful and adeptly illustrated picture book that addresses depression.  This wordless picture book presents depression in an accessible way that does not romanticize it but still clearly shows that there is hope.  Without using a single written word, this book assures the reader that being depressed does not necessairly mean you will never be happy again — even though that’s exactly how it feels while you are going through it.

This book is for everyone — from very, very young children to adults in all walks of life.  It’s applicable and relatable to many levels of grief, sadness, and depression — and for both those suffering directly or indirectly from it.   This book gives strength, hope, empathy, and understanding in a very approachable graphic-novel/picture book format.  It’s a great book to sit down and read with children or just happen to leave it where someone you know might find it and pick it up.

I left it casually lying on a table for my five-year-old son to find.  When he came home from school he immediately saw it, grabbed it, and sat down.  He looked through it for 20 minutes initially and then put it down and moved on to the next book.  He did this every day for about a week and then one day on the way to school started asking me questions about it.  He asked me so many questions — from where did the boy go to why did the lion get bigger to why did the screaming shatter the grayness?  Meh gave us a lot of material to talk about and explore in a safe way.  I am happy that we have this book in our library.

Meh is an impressive, beautiful work and a valuable tool.

Recommended All Ages. ThunderStone Books. August 2015. 32 pages. ISBN:978-1634110037. Fiction.

Where to Get it:

Author and Illustrator Websites:

More Reviews of this Book:

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

10 comments

  1. Beautiful book! And I love the story about your son’s response to it. Have you seen the book about Virginia Woolf written by Kyo Maclear? It’s also a beautiful book about depression, written from her sister’s perspective as she tries to pull Virginia out of her depression. It’s called “Virginia Wolf.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for reviewing this powerful book.
    It seems to me, that this book needs to be handled differently than a traditional picture book. For example, I don’t see how you could possibly share this book with a group of children. I think the reader needs private time to explore it–as you did with your son, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

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