Michael Rosen, , illus. by Quentin Blake. . Candlewick, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2597-9

The candor and personal nature of Rosen's heartrending exploration of sadness, rooted in the death of his son Eddie, are evident from the opening page. The caption under a sunny, smiling portrait reveals, "This is me being sad. Maybe you think I'm happy in this picture. Really I'm sad but pretending I'm happy." A second, gloomy portrait appears as the narrator notes that what makes him most sad is thinking about Eddie. The palette of Blake's (Clown ) versatile, evocative pen-and-watercolor art brightens again as an octet of cheerful scenes in window-like panels depict snapshots from Eddie's life. Yet in the accompanying text, the narrator admits that thinking of Eddie's death makes him "really angry" ("How dare he go and die like that? How dare he make me sad"); the eighth panel is empty. This contrast between art and text amplifies the bittersweet experience of losing someone dear; the joy they brought in life, and the pain that comes from the hole they have left behind. The author shares the ways he deals with his sadness: he finds someone to talk to; does "crazy" things like shouting in the shower; tells himself, "everyone has sad stuff"; tries to do one thing daily he can be proud of—and he finds solace in his memories of Eddie. In the book's poignant visual denouement, Blake's buoyant renditions of candlelit birthday celebrations give way to a final wordless spread, in which the narrator is seen, pen in hand, gazing at a sole burning candle and a framed picture. Rosen's poetic revelation of his conflicting emotions and coping strategies will resonate with—and help—anyone mourning a loss or dealing with an indefinable sadness. All ages. (Mar.)