Title: The Perfect Shelter
Written by: Clare Helen Welsh
Illustrated by: Åsa Gilland
Published by: Little Tiger Press
A heart-warming picture book about the love between two sisters. Together they build a shelter in the woods but the younger sister soon realises something is wrong, her elder sister is unwell. We see the young girl’s confusion and sadness paralleled by the deterioration of the shelter they built. Her sister’s condition becomes worse and she is taken to hospital for an operation. We see the patient begin to rebuild her life as her health improves symbolised by the building of another shelter in her hospital room with the help of a nurse.
Throughout the book the word Cancer is not mentioned. The reader can see the clues in the headwear that appears in the illustrations, of the nature of the illness. This ‘show not tell’ technique highlights how the young sibling does not understand what is wrong with her sister.
Åsa Gilland’s illustrations also successfully portray the passing of time as we are taken through the seasons with autumnal colours, seeds and berries and the arrival of the wind and rain to the deep winter hues when her sister begins to get stronger in the hospital after her operation.
This book would be perfect for PSHE sessions for instigating discussions on family illness and the complicated emotions felt by the family. There is an overall feeling of hope and expectation that the elder sister will beat her illness.