Title: Earth to Daniel
Written by: Gwenyth Rees
Published by: Bloomsbury (originally published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2003 as Mum’s from Planet Pluto)
This book deals competently and sensitively with mental illness and the effects it has on others. Daniel’s mum has bi-polar disorder and stops taking her medication causing her behaviour to escalate into a manic episode. He makes a new friend, Abby, who shares his interest in football. Abby’s mum has just had to go back into rehab because she is an alcoholic so she is being looked after by her sister, Suzy.
Daniel knows his mum was very ill once but the circumstances of her illness are kept a secret from him as the adult’s believe he is too young to understand. All he knows is her illness is controlled by medication. But then his life changes suddenly, he moves house and has to go to a new school, where his mum has just become the Head Teacher. His dad has to go to New Zealand as Daniel’s grandmother is seriously ill. His mum stops taking her lithium tablets and starts to act like she is from another planet. Daniel is the only one who can look after his sister and help his mum.
I am sure many children will be able to identify with Daniel’s and Abby’s situations and how they deal with the negative reactions of others to mental illness and dependency.
Even though they try to solve their problems alone, this book is excellent in the way it suggests seeking help from and adult without labouring a point. It also provides the support telephone number of Childline and highlights the dilemma of how much do you tell a child about mental illness.
A great book for classroom discussion.
This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.