At a time when parents around the world are trying even harder than usual to create happy, safe spaces at home, and children are being faced with all sorts of difficult emotions including fear and anxiety, The Perfect Shelter written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Åsa Gilland is poignantly relevant and comforting.
Following the hopes and fears of a young family when a child becomes ill, The Perfect Shelter manages a graceful balance between exploring the the fear, anger and sadness anyone can feel in such circumstances, with the love, hope and kindness that such experiences can also nurture.
Unpatronising and gentle, the text is kind and honest. The illustrations, with lots of leaves, flowers and nature imagery, are just as refreshing and soothing. The story begs to be brought to life with the making of your own shelters and dens, whether with cushions and sheets, boxes and blankets or twigs and leaves. As well as being serious and sensitive, this is a playful and joyous book.
Whilst the story follows the arc of one (unnamed) illness , from the days before the family had any awareness of it, through to an optimistic ending, the parallels with the situation we are living in at the moment make this book especially moving, and will also perhaps give it a wider readership. Whereas before such a story might have been found on then “When a book might help” shelf in school or library, it can instead be read as a mirror to our times, and as such it will provide much comfort. Really, though it is disguised as a book, The Perfect Shelter is a hug for us all.
[Reviewed by Zoe for FOLIO]