How did The Colour Thief come about?
Posted by
11th Sep 2014

Three years ago, Andrew became extremely ill and was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Read the following blog by Andrew and Polly on their experiences and how this influenced the making of The Colour Thief

Andrew says: "Before I was ill, and for the duration of most of my depression, I was a member of the entirely misguided ‘pull yourself together’ brigade. I thought it was my own fault and in the murky depths of my illness, when I was terrified to leave the house, when phone calls and doorbells made me shrink further into the sofa that I was glued to for ten hours a day, I forgot that I was a published writer with a career going back 25 years. My days, along with my keyboard gathered dust….

"Until, oh-so-slowly, with a mixture of family love, supportive friends, counselling, a combination of medications that finally worked (after others had been tried and rejected), plus CBT, I began to feel a little bit human again. And, with my history in children’s books and having seen how difficult it had been for both my son and daughter, I sensed the beginnings of a story about how colour had been stolen from the world - my world.

"That was the exact description for how I had felt. I could not even taste my food, and the delights of nature and the outdoors became reversed into opposite nightmares. How could I translate my experience into a simple tale? How could I de-stigmatise the mental illness of a parent in a child-friendly manner?

"So, I began work on The Colour Thief, along with my wife Polly. Our collaboration was the first in nearly a year since I had got ill. We wanted to reach out to families; to children; to individuals who are also parents experiencing depression; to professionals working with children; to schools - to put the illness of ‘depression’ into context. Also, most importantly, we wanted to provide hope. Unlike me, my dad never did find his way out of depression; he took his own life when I was a toddler. I was lucky. I managed to learn the hardest lesson of all – that sometimes it’s not good to follow in your father’s footsteps.

"Now, with this beautifully illustrated story, we have a chance to share a tiny glimpse of what is like to be ill and to get better, for the person experiencing depression and for her or his family. We are so thrilled by the faith that our publisher Wayland have in this book. Our wonderful editor said that it reminded her of why she entered publishing in the first place. We hope it reaches out – that some child/ some parent/ some carer out there can see that they are not alone with what they are feeling when a family member becomes ill."

Polly says of how the book came to be: “Something I was so acutely aware of throughout the extended period of Andrew’s depression was the way that it affected not only him but also our children, and me, as main carer during that time. When one person in a family experiences mental illness, everyone around them feels the impact too. It is so important for children to be included in talking about what is happening and how it makes them feel. For me that was the main reason why it felt significant to represent a child’s view, because sometimes a child’s feelings can get a little lost when much of the focus is inevitably on the person who is ill.”

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