Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry (2003), written by the late Bebe Moore Campbell and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a wonderful book. As you know, if you’ve read a couple of my reviews, I am a great believer in bibliotherapy. This book is perfect for that. The author had personal experience dealing with mental illness with her daughter, actress Maia Campbell of In The House fame. Campbell says that she wrote this book for all the young children who have parents who battle mental illness. She, very much wanted this book to be used as an opportunity to develop resilience by introducing and/or reinforcing coping strategies. This book is perfect for child psychologists, parents, guardians & teachers to read and share with any child who has a parent, caretaker, or family member who suffers from a mental illness. Shortly after this book, she wrote 72 Hour Hold, the story of a mother struggling to help her 18-year-old daughter, a victim of bipolar disorder. I love that Campbell wrote this book. I read how, in one interview, she discussed how the Black community doesn’t like to talk about mental illness as if it’s a shame. It’s not. It’s just like any other illness. If you need to take medication to make yourself well, that’s what you do. That’s why I appreciated this book so much. Finally, someone willing to write a children’s book about it. I also wrote another review for a children’s book dealing with depression also, called Monster Mama.I wish that more people would see it for what it is- an illness- not something to be ashamed of.
N-e way, on to the review.
I would recommend this book for someone as young as 4 years old. Even though this is a heavy subject, if someone that young is dealing with this scenario, then they need to know they are not alone. As the main character in the book, Annie, has to deal with her mother’s mental illness. As the book begins, Annie’s mother is in a manic state. She fixes her pancakes, helps her get dressed for school, and gives her a kiss and a big smile. She’s happy because she says sometimes her mommy doesn’t smile at all.
In class, she draws a picture of her and her mommy with pancakes and sunshine all around them. As she gets home, she knocks excitedly on the door as she tries to show her mommy her picture. However, her mommy comes to the door (in a depressed state) and tells her to, “STOP ALL THAT SCREAMING,” & “GET IN THIS HOUSE NOW!”
“Her morning smile has disappeared like the sun,” says Annie.
So, she calls her support system, her grandmother. She tells her grandmother what’s going on and her grandmother assures her that she didn’t do anything wrong, that her mother has problems, but hasn’t gotten the help she needs. Annie doesn’t think it’s fair that she has to take care of herself whenever her mother has “problems”. Her grandmother tells her that she knows it’s not fair, but congratulates her on remembering what to do when her mom has “problems”. She has Annie explain what to do. In an emergency, Annie is to: call her grandmother, go next door to the neighbor’s house, get her secret snack, and think happy thoughts.
I have to tell you that this book made me cry. As always, I won’t tell you how the book ends. You’re going to have to read it for yourself to find out. But, suffice it to say that it does not insult you with an unrealistic, syrupy ending. On the back cover, it simply says, Some days are good. Some days are not. I’d say that sums up the life of someone suffering from mental illness, as well as those close to them. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, as well as some Kleenex. You’ll need it.
If you would like to learn more about Bebe Moore Campbell, click here.