Anna Liza’s mother is a brain doctor, which she explains is called a psychiatrist, a ‘sye-kye-a-trist.’   Anna Liza sees that many of her patients are sad and her mum explains that it’s ‘more important to listen to her patients than to talk to them.’

Anna Liza wants to be a brain doctor too one day but for now she loves trying to cheer patients up in the waiting room, either by telling endless ‘knock knock’ jokes or chatting to them and finding out what is wrong.  When a little boy called Edward says he’s sad because his dad is sad that his mum is gone, Anna Liza asks Edward what his dad does.  ‘He just sits on the couch and says stuff like, “My life isn’t going anywhere.”‘ 

Unique heroine

In her warm, childlike way of understanding this, Anna Liza concocts a plan to literally get Edward’s dad back up on his feet.  This hare-brained scheme nearly ends badly but luckily all works out and his dad’s eyes are opened to his son and the world around him.  

Anna Liza has a distinct and precocious voice and humour arises from the earnest and empathetic way she wants to help everyone.  

Mental health issues

This slightly fantastic tale has a good heart and it helps children understand psychological issues, such as grieving and depression.  It is only a gentle introduction though, and some may find that it glosses over the reality of a depressed parent who can’t simply be ‘cheered up.’  Anna Liza’s involvement with her mother’s patients is also a bit questionable. Not everyone in a psychiatrist’s office wants to be seen by the doctor’s child, let alone chatted to. However, if you give it some artistic licence, it’s a sweet and funny story about caring and seeing the bright side of life. 

Readers will know Eoin Colfer as author of the bestselling fantasy adventure series Artemis Fowl. 

Parents:  This book has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paper stock.

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