Book: Happy Pants
Author: Heather Gallagher
Illustrator: Liz McGrath
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Wombat Books, Australia, 2014
RRP: AUD $22.99
Reviewed By: Penny Reeve
Blurb: ‘When Mummy wears her happy pants we build sandcastles, go out for baby cinos and have lots and lots of cuddles. But when she comes home with baby Darcy, her happy pants stay in her wardrobe…’
What I thought: Happy Pants is a lovely hardback picture book that is brave enough to tackle the issue of post-natal depression. The story is written from the perspective of an older brother watching his mother struggle after the arrival of the new baby. The ‘happy pants’ referred to in the title and following storyline are Mum’s colourful trousers that she used to wear during happy times before baby Darcy is born. When the new baby comes the happy pants are relegated to the wardrobe and the child narrator watches as his once fun loving mum retreats within herself. Although depression is not named in the story, it’s obvious to an adult reader that this is what mum is dealing with.
I’ll admit, I found this a difficult story to share with my four year old; perhaps this was because Post Natal Depression has, at times, been part of my own journey, perhaps it was because the story is, for a very long time, quite sad. Heather Gallagher captures the loneliness and confusion felt by the young boy in her simplistic text and Liz McGrath fills in the extended family situation of concern and support. The story in Happy Pants does end with hope (mum and dad seek medical help and mum assures her son that she ‘Will get better’). The final illustration is certainly one of healing with the happy pants back in action again, but this book refrains from promising a quick fix or ‘happy ever after’. This seemed appropriately done. PND is a hard, often long, road to travel for everyone involved (mothers, fathers, children and extended family.)
Happy Pants is potentially a very useful book for families dealing with PND. It could easily provide a springboard for helpful discussion, especially with children watching their beloved mum react so unexpectedly – and help them navigate the potential field of false guilt and hurt feelings. I loved the way the story and illustrations highlight the supporting roles given by fathers and extended families at these difficult times. Certainly those involved in counselling ministries would find this a helpful resource.
Where to buy: Australian readers should be able to purchase this book from their local bookstore. International orders are best made online from the publisher who offers very reasonable postage world-wide. See the Wombat Books website for more details.