August 3, 2012
My Depression: A Picture Book
GENRE: Nonfiction - Autobiography
REVIEW: Depression is a difficult topic and there are very few books written for tweens on the subject. Though My Depression: A Picture Book is written by an adult with an adult audience in mind, there are many aspects of her story that will resonate with tweens struggling to understand the condition. Swados writes about depression frankly, as one who has struggled with the condition since she herself was an adolescent. Her illustrations are raw, evocative and gently humorous, underscoring her minimal text and the emotional difficulties of traveling through a depressive episode and successfully reaching the other side. Swados deals with everything from onset and coping mechanisms to social difficulties and treatment options without falling into the trap of recommending a cure - lots of things work, you just have to be patient and find what works for you. With an absolute lack of judgement, Swados delivers an encouraging message from a person with first hand experience.
OPINION: Certain topics in Swados's story may be inappropriate for younger adolescents (she briefly addresses suicide - though in such as way that emphasizes the many reasons she chose not to. Also mentioned are smoking and drinking as initial coping mechanisms). As such, it's a book that should be recommended and read with care. For older adolescents, particularly those who can read the book and discuss it with a trusted adult, My Depression: A Picture Book is an enlightening, encouraging and nourishing read, filled with sensitivity, frankness and the gentle humor of a person who has been there and made it through.
IDEAS: Unless dealing with a tween or teen that you know quite well, this My Depression: A Picture Book is best recommended to parents / caregivers by librarians (counselors and professionals often recommend it directly, but for nonprofessionals, caution is best). Though blatantly encouraging (the ability to draw strength from depression is repeatedly underscored, while Swados's positive attitude communicates strong authorial support), for older adolescents, it is still a book ideally read with the support of someone else.