Like so many people, the author of the wonderful children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt, caught Covid-19 and became seriously ill with it. He spent 48 days in intensive care and nearly all of it in an induced coma. Scary times for him, and all of us, as this book shows.
Mostly the book is a collection of his poems about that time as he saw it, although he wasn't aware of much of it during his time in a coma. It is also a record of that period from those who were close to him - texts from his family, messages and entries from the staff who helped care for him via the patient diary - as well as his own jagged notes. Not forgetting the brilliant illustrations by Chris Riddell.
Some of the most moving pieces are the messages from his wife, both to him and to others. She keeps everyone up to date with how her husband is doing, good and bad and what treatment he is receiving.
It is Rosen's poems, of course, that really bring home the detail of Covid, expressed in a blunt, harrowing reality. Sometimes there is humour but the indignity and fear is always there. It makes hard reading especially when another patient passes away and the memories of family members dying come to his mind. I like the poem where he discusses the word 'liminal', a space or moment 'between worlds'. Kind of fits.
But it's not all depressing. In the section called 'Rehab' Rosen is given a walking stick that he names Sticky McStickstick and posts images of it on Twitter. However, it is as the title suggests, about the different kinds of love, without which, Michael Rosen may not have survived.
An astounding read, beautiful, moving and profound. Everyone should read this.
The instant Sunday Times top ten bestseller
A Guardian Book of the Year
An Evening Standard Book of the Year
An Independent Book of the Year
Published by Ebury Digital on 18 March 2021.