Sunday 10 January 2016

The Colour Thief: A family's story of depression

This post includes affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

Written by Andrew Fusek Peters & Polly Peters
Illustrated by Karin Littlewood
Wayland Books a division of Hachette Children's Books 2014
Reviewed copy: from my resource shelf at work

Back of Book:
My Dad's life was full of colour. But one day, Dad was full up with sadness, all the way up to the top. He said that all the colours had gone.Someone had stolen them away. Just taken them one by one....
The Colour Thief is a tender tale of a father's struggle with depression and the distance it drives between him and his family. But this is a story of hope and love, and the journey towards getting a life back on track.

See below for more about this book...

Missus B says:
Full-time, I work in the area of social care/family support & my colleagues and I are always on the lookout for new resources to support families. Regarding the subject of depression, there's a limited pool of resources out there. So, when I came upon The Colour Thief: A family's story of depressionI  was keen to order it and add it to our resource shelf. I wasn't disappointed & know that this book will be a helpful tool in opening up dialogue about parental depression. 

Narrated by a child, the story gives us an account of his father's depression. Firstly in the opening pages, bursting with colour, we read about their happy times together.
My Dad's life was full of colour. Every day, clouds smiled at him and trees waved hello. We went walking together. We saw green hills snoozing in the afternoon light,and bright flowers singing to the sun.

In contrast, the next page is filled with grey and black hues, and a look of despair on Dad's face as the child talks about his father's depression.

A family's story of depression
It's difficult to explain this illness, let alone find words that children can understand. The Dad in the story though, has managed to describe depression to his son in simple terms, using imagery and concrete examples.

The child explains that, instead of smiling clouds and sunshine, his father now sees the 'sun sulking, clouds frowning, rain crying.' He stays indoors feeling that, if  went out  'the lamp posts would laugh at him or the streets would call him names'  He doesn't want to talk if the phone rings, he pretends not to hear the doorbell and prefers to stay in bed all day, with the curtains closed.

We read that he feels.....
A family's story of depression
.....sad and stuck, like a marble in a bottle
Missing  his father's smile, the  boy describes his own loneliness as a 'heavy stone feeling inside' and, on a window pane, he traces a picture of his father.
Andrew Fusek Peters. Polly Peters, Karin Littlewood
It's hard not connect with the character in this beautifully illustrated moment...we see the sadness that both he and his father feel as he draws his Dad trapped in an ice cube.
Often, the narrative describes the boy wondering if he is to blame for his father's sadness: 'I thought I had done something wrong, but he told me I hadn't.'  Reiterated throughout the story, this is an important message for children who can often feel that they are responsible for their parent's feelings. Frequently, the character is reassured by his father, that he has done nothing wrong.

In order to get better, his father sees 'important people at a hospital' who help him with 'medicine for his mind', talking & listening.
A family's story of depression
Days and weeks pass slowly : 'Months were stretchy like chewing gum.'....until one day, the father opens a window-the suns shines in and the greyness fades away.

A family's story of depression

This is a sad, compassionate tale with a hopeful ending. While it is this family and one man's unique story, it gives readers insight to many of the feelings associated with depression. The beautiful portrait illustrations and concrete language make the subject more tangible and easier to grasp.

Just as the father has explained some of his feelings to his son, this book can help open up dialogue between children and parents around a difficult subject. Of significant importance is that the story not only acknowledges the feelings of the father, but also describes how the child is impacted. 

With poignant illustrations-each page is brimming with feeling and when you hold this book in your hand, it seems like you are looking right into the eyes of this child and his father.Their honest & touching story can support families with similar experiences  to feel reassured and less alone.The Colour Thief: A family's story of depressionis a helpful tool for children, families or professionals who want to explore this sensitive subject. 

You may also be interested in the collection of books I have compiled on my 'Feelings/Emotions' Page which includes Meh: A story about (childhood) depression.

Check out some other resources  I have listed below.

Book available at the below affiliate links:
Helping Children Understand & Cope with Parental Depression: an article from
When A Parent is Depressed: What Kids Want to Know : an article from the Cente for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH)
The Impact of Postpartum Depression on Children:an article from

Other books on the same topic:


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