By Author / Illustrator
Clare Helen Welsh, Asa Gilland
Little Tiger Press Group
Paperback / softback
A powerfully told story from Clare Helen Welsh and Asa Gilland that explores the emotions we feel when someone we love is battling a serious illness.
At first, nobody knew. It seemed as if today would be like yesterday forever, the perfect day to build a shelter in the woods. Then, my sister changed - she was more tired than before. More quiet. When we learn that she is sick, really sick, it feels as though a storm has engulfed our whole family. But, we will ride out this storm. And though today may be different from yesterday, today is the perfect day to build a shelter, together.
A heartwarming book that sensitively tackles the tough subject of illness with authentic and empathetic tenderness. Much like Michael Rosen's Sad Book, A Shelter for Sadness or The Building Boy, The Perfect Shelter offers children a way to understand and articulate complex, often overwhelming, emotions.
The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh and Asa Gilland is an incredibly stunning and moving picture book which is profoundly relevant at this time. The stunning illustrations on each page which all feature nature in some way are beautiful and provide refreshing visuals.
This picture book follows a family of four, Mum, Dad and two sisters. The story opens with the sister enjoying nature and enjoying a shared love of den building. Slowly we learn that the elder of the two sisters is unwell with an illness that is never labelled by the authors. As her sister is admitted to hospital, the readers are then taken on an emotional journey that follows the younger sibling change from feelings of pure happiness to fear, anger and sadness. She longs for her sister to get better and feels despondent. She wishes she could get back to her den with her sister.
When the family are eventually allowed to come home, seasons have changed, and the den no longer stands. But it doesn't seem important anymore. After spending time with her sister who seems to be bed-bound at home, her sister suggests a new place for a den: the bedroom. The sisters are smiling again; not due to the den building but because they are together: a powerful message to end with.
Whilst the reader is left with the uncertainty of the eldest sister's future, this allows the reader to take the book further, if necessary, with children who might be in a similar situation - which unfortunately is more common at this time.
As a teacher, I am unsure of whether I would use this in a whole class setting unless all the children are close to a similar situation. However, it is a book that I will definitely recommend and lend to some families to provide some comfort and understanding in this current climate. Although, I am sure it will also get a good amount of use after COVID-19 has passed as well.
Furthermore, (although not the focus of the story) the book inspired both my children to build dens. I am not sure any child would not also be inspired to do so after reading this picture book. We have now built five dens since reading this book and they have featured on much of our local social media pages. It is great fun and the whole family can get involved. I fully recommend making use of a rainy day by cutting up old bits of fabric to make bunting and old cereal boxes for hanging signs, just like in the illustrations.
A recommended read for families regardless of whether they are experiencing similar trauma or not!
Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by James Hewish, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 5+