A Terrible Thing Happened ISBN: 9781557987013
Published by Magination Press, 2000
'Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing...It really scared Sherman to see such a terrible thing.' So begins a book for children about having witnessed something truly appalling. It could be abuse, or gang violence, an accident, a murder or suicide, or perhaps a fire or horrendous flood - something that has brought on terrible fear and horror. Sherman tries to forget what he has seen in the beginning, but then something begins to happen. He becomes aggressive and develops a need to do everything better than any of his friends. He also isn't hungry, but gets terrific head and stomach aches. He's sad and nervous and doesn't sleep well, and when he does sleep, he has nightmares. All of this makes Sherman angry, and he starts getting into trouble at school, being mean and a bully. It is only when he meets Ms Maple at school, a counsellor, that things begin to get better. Ms Maple listens to Sherman; she plays games and puzzles with him, and asks him to draw a picture of the anger he feels. From this they progress to other pictures - of dreams, of fears, of his bodily aches - and, finally, to the terrible thing he saw. Ms Maple is very supportive and reassuring, and tells Sherman that the terrible thing was in no way his fault, that she is proud of him for being able to talk about his fears; the more they talk, the stronger Sherman feels, and that means he is no longer so angry. The problems don't disappear immediately, and Sherman knows that 'nothing can change the terrible thing' he saw, but 'Sherman Smith is feeling much better now. He just thought you would want to know.' A terrific ending for a terrific book! The lovely illustrations in pastel colours are hugely effective, and Sherman is a lovable raccoon who has our sympathy from the beginning. There is material at the end for parents and carers dealing with a traumatised child.