The Perfect Shelter
Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland
Clare knows how to write about areas many people find difficult, her last book being the beautiful story The Tide, featuring a loved family member with dementia.
The new book, The Perfect Shelter is also based on personal experiences, this time of cancer. It’s equally beautifully told and illustrated and it’s evident immediately that a great deal of thought and loving care has gone into its creation.
As the story starts a family shares what the little girl narrator calls ‘the perfect day’, just right for her and her older sister to build a den in the woods – the perfect shelter.
Suddenly though as the evening draws in, it’s evident that something is not right with big sister.
Back home comes the news, her sister is ill.
A storm rages but the den repairs must continue as the narrator’s beloved sibling undergoes an operation.
But then come the questions, “How did it get there? … Why MY sister?”
Eventually although the den seems beyond fixing, the narrator’s internal storm begins to abate as big sister starts to regain her strength and with it her determination: there’s a new perfect time and perfect place to build a new shelter …
And with it come smiles, new plans and that wonderful feeling of togetherness.
Although we share in the gamut of emotions of this family, it’s optimism that is key in the poignant telling and Åsa Gilland’s slightly quirky illustrations capturing the family sharing a difficult time are superbly expressive of all the uncertainty inherent in Claire’s story. I love the way she adds gorgeous tiny detail and patterning to every scene.
That there is no mention of any specific illness makes this a book that will help untie the knot of emotions in many families when one of their number (Or indeed a close friend) is diagnosed with a serious illness.