A Shelter for Sadness

Books for Empathy, Fiction, Picture Books / Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

The more I write these blog posts, the more I realise that, though we may all be unique, we, as humans, share emotions and experiences. We have all felt sadness, and loss. Whether it be the loss of a family member, or a misplaced treasured possession, a friend moving away, whatever the cause may be, we all know what loss feels like, and what it is to be sad. So my latest book, truly is a book for everyone. This is A Shelter for Sadness, written by Anne Booth, Illustrated by David Litchfield and published by Templar Books.

I recently had the immense pleasure of chit chatting to Ann and David about this book and their careers for our Sheffield Libraries Podcast which you can listen to on the Sheffield Libraries Anchor Page or on your usual podcasting platform!


“Sadness has come to live with me and I am building it a shelter.”

A small boy is feeling sad, we don’t know the cause, but we know it’s overwhelming. So he creates a shelter for his sadness. In this safe place his sadness can be as big as it wants, or small, it can shout and scream, or sit in silence. The boy can visit his sadness whenever he wants, give it a big hug, or just leave it be, knowing it’s safe and not forgotten. This is a heartwarming book that explores that feeling of sadness as a character, and how we can find ways to acknowledge and nurture our feelings to find hope and enjoy the beautiful world together.

That first line is a real punch in the heart. “Sadness has come to live with me.” We often treat sadness as a temporary thing, but in truth, anyone who has experienced loss knows that it never really goes away. The real life lesson is how we learn to live with it, accept its presence, take care of it as a cherished part of us. Because those life experiences, are part of our being and to ignore them can have a hugely negative impact on our mental health.

Anne Booth wrote this incredibly personal story after experiencing a loss of her own, and her writing here is wise and knowing. This is a beautifully gentle book, in no way patronising and certainly doesn’t instruct on how we should deal with loss. It suggests how it can be, sometimes loud and in your face, other times in the background, but the book explains so clearly how by acknowledging, and looking after this sadness we also are looking after ourselves.

I love how the cause of the sadness in this book is deliberately innocuous, because this allows it to reach anyone, however they’ve been affected by sadness, this non-specific angle means all children and adults can relate to, and benefit from, the themes. Please don’t be fooled by the title here, this is a wholly positive and truly beautiful book. It’s about finding hope in the sadness, about moving forward but not forgetting. It’s very sensitively and carefully done, by a writer who really understands.

Anne Booth wrote A shelter for Sadness around 2017, and then had a long wait to secure illustrator David Litchfield. When you look through the spreads in this book, you can see why they waited and why it was completely worth it! I’m not sure how I’d begin to go about creating a visual representation of sadness, but David put his creativity to the test and came up with an adorable creature made up of scribbles which really represent the confused and mixed aspect of this emotion, with a little red heart right in the middle. Sadness is just wonderful, and it’s clear a lot of fun was had drawing it this incredibly important element.

The scenery in the book is, of course, completely stunning. David plays with light, colour and texture to create realistic yet magical scenes. As the book progresses through the seasons that feeling of hope is emphasised and when the flowers bloom your breath will be taken with the gloriousness of these pages. Just look at this and I defy you not to be overwhelmed with joy and hope! That is what this gorgeous book sets out to achieve, and it unquestionably succeeds!!

Acknowledging and nurturing feelings, sadness, loss, grief is such an important lesson for all of us, and A Shelter for Sadness takes you by the hand, walks you through that tunnel right into the light at the end, supported by perfect, poetic storytelling and dazzling illustrations, this gentle, compassionate and empathic picture book is simply superb.

A Shelter for Sadness is out now and available from all good libraries and bookshops. You can support your local independent bookshops and also my blog, buy purchasing a copy through my Bookshop.org affiliate link.


Thank you for reading this Book Monster Review.

Book Monster Ally x

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