April 5, 2018


If you or someone you know has ever suffered from anxiety or depression, you know the signs, isolation and anger key among them. In this wordless picture book Small Things from Australian author-illustrator Mel Tregonning, readers get an accessible, first-hand account of the effects of anxiety and depression on a young boy trying to make friends at school.

As if school wasn't hard enough, the main character in this book is full of worry. He doesn't fit in at school, his grades are slipping, and he has started to lash out at his family and loved ones. As the boy suffers rejection after rejection, readers can see the anxiety and depression slowly taking hold of him: Tregonning masterfully portrays the boy's inner demons as tiny little demon beings that first crowd him and then literally begin to chip away at him until all that's left is a crumbling person. But what the boy learns—and he learns it the hard way—is that he's not alone. All around him are other students with their own demons, and the key to survival is learning to live with those demons and manage his anxieties, not trying to shut them out completely. 

This book is unique for a whole host of reasons (it deals with depression in very young people, it's wordless, it's a graphic picture book, the list goes on), but one of the saddest, most striking aspects is that the story is based on Tregonning's own experiences with depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, Tregonning passed away from depression-related issues before the book was finished, so it was finished by one of her inspirations, Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan. The authenticity of this book, not to mention the universality of the subject matter, makes it a tough but worthwhile read and opens up a world of conversations for children to discuss their own inner demons with the adults they trust.

Small Things published from Pajama Press this past March.

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