When Sadness Comes to Call is a gentle and poignant picture book now published in paperback format, written to help children cope with difficult emotions. Eva Eland’s debut has a strong positive message of acceptance, encouraging the reader to acknowledge all emotions, even those perceived as negative, such as sadness. By allowing these feelings in, we can better understand and process them. Eland weaves practical tips through this uplifting and hopeful story, and the book is full of empathy. The illustrations work perfectly with the text, drawn in a reassuring and calm colour palette. And coming soon is Eland's next book Where Happiness Begins, which is published in March and is available to pre-order now.
Below, Eland talks about her inspiration for When Sadness Comes to Call, and how important accepting our emotions is for our well-being.
The idea for this book is quite old already. I have really small thumbnails and notes that I jotted down in an hour or so, dating back to 2012 - which are almost like a very (very) rough blueprint of ‘When Sadness Comes to Call’. I called it: ’An unwanted guest - a manual’, and at the time I wasn’t thinking yet of venturing into writing and illustrating children’s books. I imagined it as a little booklet or foldable poster, almost like one of those IKEA manuals.
I revisited the idea in 2016, during my education at the Children’s Book Illustration master at the Cambridge School of Art and it went through many different forms and stages since. It’s interesting to me however that the shape and character of Sadness never changed much, besides some experimentation in between. It just arrived and lingered around until it made its way into the book. During the course, it wasn’t even my initial idea to make a book about sadness. All I was sure of from the beginning was that I wanted to make something comforting - and explore with image making and storytelling how I could achieve that.
I did, however, write at the time: “The intrinsic motivation to make a sequence about dealing with difficult emotions is that I believe that by taking more responsibility for our feelings, instead of banning them to our unconscious where they might start a life of their own, enables us to understand ourselves and others better. Instead of having the feeling we need to hide parts of ourselves, as if we are partly in disguise, we can stay true to what ‘is’, in the moment. Making it easier to truly connect, with ourselves, and with others. To give children the opportunity to explore such feelings within the safety of a book and simultaneously giving adult and child a tool to start a conversation about difficult subjects.”
It pretty much sums up what I still think is one of the powerful aspects picture books. We can see ourselves reflected in them, or they can provide pathways into territories that might otherwise remain unlocked, forgotten or simply be too intimidating. Offering carers of children an opportunity to explore difficult subjects with children. By reading a book together about a subject like sadness, I think you also give the child a very clear signal that it’s OK to feel sad, or scared sometimes. You can let them know that everyone feels like that at times, and that it is not something to be ashamed of.
By demystifying strong emotions like sadness and by understanding them better, we can also let go of the fear of them. Just like the child on the cover, we can adopt an attitude of curiosity and kindness towards our emotions. Emotions can tell us a great deal about ourselves and our needs - and we might as well attend to them. And when we can listen to our emotions and take care of them, we might discover how they also take care of us in a way.
As sadness comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and we all have our own stories and ways of coping with it, I deliberately created very minimal artwork and short sentences to create enough space for the reader, so they can make the story their own and explore their personal relationship with sadness.
Judging from all the responses so far, it seemed to have worked, though sometimes it’s still hard to believe that I (together with my editor Libby Hamilton and art director Beccy Garrill at Andersen Press - and before that with help of some excellent guidance from tutors at the Cambridge School of Art) managed to make something that resonates so strongly with others.
Of course I already realised that sadness is a very universal emotion - but in the process of making this book I also learned to understand this feeling better for myself and in embracing my own sadness (sometimes!) and having conversations about emotions with others, I have never felt more connected with others as well. If we can see our own sadness without fear or judgment, we can also see it in others, without fear and judgment. It made me understand on a deeper level, that beyond all our differences, we really have so much more in common than things that separates us, and in learning to understand ourselves and our emotions from an early age on, we can develop more empathy, love and kindness, towards ourselves and others.
To encourage children to explore their emotions in a healthy way is very important I think, and it’s wonderful to see so many books out there now that help with this - books I would’ve loved to have read when I was a child.
Eva Eland is a Dutch author and illustrator who lives in England. She earned an MA with distinction in children’s book illustration from the Cambridge School of Art, and has also studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the School of Visual Arts in New York. When Sadness Comes to Call is her first picture book. Eva grew up in Delft, Netherlands, and now lives in Cambridge with her fiancé.