When Mel Maxwell’s sister died following a battle with an aggressive form of cancer she looked around for books that would help her young niece and nephew understand what had happened. She found books written for adults but nothing that a child or young adult could relate to – so she took the task on herself to complete.
The result is The Coat I Wear, and features illustrations created by a lifelong friend. The book’s title comes from the idea of grief being like wearing a heavy coat that is too big for you.
“It has always been my thing that I can take a complex situation and naturally make it something I can understand or explain to someone else,” says Mel.
“It gave me comfort to have that thought in my head. I parked it, I wasn’t thinking about anything other than just getting on.
“It was only when a friend of mine whose father died asked how I got through my experience, I relayed this analogy. She felt comforted by it too and that was the point when I thought, maybe I could do something with this.”
Mel started to jot down ideas and slowly the book was written. One of the first people Mel showed the finished book to was her close friend Michelle Stewart.
“We met 30 years ago at Art College,” Mel explains. “I asked if she would consider doing some illustrations for it.”
The collaboration was a success and Mel decided to self-publish her book.
She says: “It’s selling slowly as the word gets out. I’d love it to get to children who find the words comforting. And don’t rule out adults; this isn’t just a book for children. Last week I spoke to a lovely lady from Cruse who works in the youth area. She said this could be for young teenagers, they would get something from this too.
“I’m beginning to realise that actually it’s wider reaching than I began thinking about.”
The Coat I Wear by Mel Maxwell, illustrated by Michelle Stewart is published by I Am Somewhat Ltd, £7.99. ISBN: 978-0993117909