The Bravest Word is really something special.
This is such a gentle and powerful story about an 11-year-old kid who is suffering from depression, and look, let’s be real here, I teared up. 😭 Not because the book was hopeless — rather because it was so infused with hope and love that it just wrecks you in a really lovely way. I genuinely recommend this to everyone. It doesn’t just explain things like panic attacks and depressive episodes to kids in an accessible way, but it also says how you can help. From giving Matt a father who listens to him, to friends who stick around. It’s just 🥺💛 Plus add in some adorable dog content and you have just an amazing little book that should be on all shelves.
Matt is a pretty regular kid with two loving parents and a nice school and friends and a place on the football team. He doesn’t understand his sudden tiredness, his loss of motivation and hunger, the way he just keeps crying and doesn’t want to be around people. The panic attacks. The dread over football. Why he just wants to sleep. He knows something is wrong, but he doesn’t have the language to articulate it. And of course so many adults’ mentality is “kids can’t get depressed” so his mother dismisses the problems. Only his dad gently notices and tries to be supportive. Matt overhears the word “depression” from his dad talking to his mum and that leads Matt to research it a little. But still — talking about it? Facing it? He doesn’t know how.
I love Dad, and Mum, but talk to them? About all this, my weird crying and chest tightening, how I feel scared all the time? I don’t know. I don’t think I could ever tell them about all this stuff happening. How do you tell the people who love you most, the ones who give you everything and want you to be happy, that actually you aren’t happy but you don’t know why?
The only thing keeping him going is the desperate hope to adopt this little abandon dog that Matt and his dad rescued while on a hike. I loved the rescue scenes. It will punch your heart, because little Cliff is so hurt and scared (and look, animal abuse makes me furious). The little dog just up and STEALS Matt’s heart and he becomes such a loving, tender carer for Cliff.
And I adored the way Matt realises Cliff is saving him as much as he is saving Cliff.
The whole book is just so tender. There’s heartache and mistakes (especially on the mother’s part), but there’s also growth and communication. I remember being 14 and having my first panic attack with no words to know what I was going through — so just knowing that kids can have access to books like these is so important.
Sad and bittersweet, but also infused with soft hope, The Bravest Word is a book about boy and dog rescuing each other and the reminder that no one should suffer alone. It takes bravery to ask for help.
Thanks to Walker Books AUS for the review copy!
Title: The Bravest Word
Author: Kate Foster
Date Published: May, 2022
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publisher: Walker Books
Purchase: Book Depository, Dymocks
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A rescue story of love and trust between a boy and a dog from the talented author of PAWS.
“Do you hear that? You’re Cliff now, and your life is going to get better, I promise.”
When eleven-year-old Matt finds Cliff, a hurt, neglected dog abandoned in the bush, he knows the brave little pup needs saving. He wants to help. But can he?
Lately, Matt has had way more bad days than good days. The pieces of his life just don’t seem to fit together any more and he doesn’t understand why. He’s finding it impossible to concentrate at school and has lost interest in the activities he used to love. Plus, he’s tired all the time.
Matt’s too afraid to share what’s really going on in his own head with anyone. His friends and family will never understand . . . maybe it’s not only Cliff who needs saving.