Cover Image: When I See Blue

When I See Blue

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Member Reviews

It is wonderful to read a book for children that deals sensitively with an issue like OCD.
The book introduces us to Ben, (who, according to the blurb - 1. He's 12 years old 2. He's the new kid at school 3. His special number is 4 and 4. He has a bully in his brain) and whose family life is tumultuous at the moment. As the story progresses we learn that his special interest in the number four (counting in fours, multiples of four, things with four sides, doing things four times, etc.) are something he cannot help himself doing, and are essentialy a coping mechanism for himself, in all sorts of circumstances.
He learns more about why he thinks this way as the story goes on, and during this time he also develops a wonderful friendship with April , a girl in his class. 
It is a lovely story for children of a similar age to read, teaching them about this oft-maligned disorder, as well as the importance of friendship and empathy.
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A lovely story focusing on a much-ignored area of life. 

The story follows Ben as he becomes aware of having, and then learns to live with, OCD. After Ben moves to a new school, he wants to be invisible. That is until he meets April. Ben has a troubled home life and tries to control the things that happen by following his compulsions. It's not until April speaks to him about it and pushes him to talk to someone that things start to change. A story of living with mental health difficulties, as well as being a child with a challenging home situation. The novel is written beautifully and covers a range of subjects in a very kind and supportive manner.
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While it took me a little while to get into the book, I felt once Ben started therapy this book really began to shine. Not only having a friend start to challenge his persistent thoughts, but to show a child in therapy, working with a therapist, and getting all that important information on mindset and how the brain can work is incredibly powerful. As someone with an anxiety disorder who has gone through exposure therapy as well, it was so refreshing to see this handled in a book and make it clear that it is a process that requires actual work and willingness. It's rare to see this in self-help books for adults, let alone children's books, because people don't like to be told they need do hard things to get better. But I loved that the author was willing to push that - and as someone with lived experience and a mental health activist, it's clear she wants to show OCD accurately while also showing how it can be managed.

While this book specifically relates to OCD, much of the process can be used for any anxiety disorder. I can only hope that children reading this will be able to take away the tools Ben learns into real life, and be inspired to get help should they need it.
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Lily Bailey’s debut novel WHEN I SEE BLUE is a brave and unflinching portrayal of life as an OCD sufferer and, while it’s the perfect example of how reading has the power to promote empathy and understanding, and to reassure those experiencing similar difficulties that they are not alone, it is by no means a dry, textbook kind of read.

We meet 12-yr-old Ben when he is at his most vulnerable. He’s just moved to a new city and school, and life in his new home is unravelling in front of his eyes. With his mother, father and brother wrapped up in their own problems and unable to deal with what they call his “Ben things”, Ben is desperate to gain some control over his increasing anxiety and the chaos of his new surroundings. Compelled to avoid certain colours, and to always do things in relation to the number four, Ben’s compulsions get so bad, his schoolwork is suffering as he can’t write words that are not composed of four letters, or multiples of four. And he can barely walk down the street without having to stop and carry out the rituals that give him the illusion of safety and control.

But, as the saying goes – when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. New friend April, a fellow Dr Who fan, is the first person to help Ben onto the bottom rung of the ladder that will get him out of that dark hole.

Recognising the symptoms of Ben’s condition, April convinces him to seek help, and Ben finally sees the bully in his brain for what it is. Slowly, he begins to challenge these intrusive thoughts, and Bailey does a brilliant job of showing the reader just how stressful and panicky Ben feels as he fights against the brain-bully’s lies. But readers, like Ben, will be rewarded with the sense of empowerment that come from his small triumphs.

This beautifully crafted middle grade novel will grab your heartstrings and pull you into a story of great suffering, but also of great friendship…and hope!

Nigel Baine’s poignant cover art really gives a sense of Ben’s loneliness and isolation, and this beautiful book would be a brilliant addition to any school library.
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A nice endeavour to educate people about OCD and the anxiety that's comes with it.  A heart touching story about a little one that has the full ability to bring you to your tears and shoot right through your heart. Overall, an amazing book.
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A fascinating, heartbreaking read that shines a light on the experiences of a young boy navigating family difficulties and moving to a new school while experiencing intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Written by an author who has personal experience of growing up with OCD this middlegrade story offers valuable insight into the challenges faced by young people who have this condition, highlighting the work that they must do to overcome it and the importance of a good support system who understand and accept the reality of living with ocd.
An excellent option for reading aloud/Class novel in senior primary classrooms (with pupils aged 10+) there is loads of scope for rich discussion here on ocd, alcoholism, sibling disconnect, absent parents, bullying, embracing your unique identity and more! 
Definitely one I will be adding to my class library next year.
Thank you to and Hatchette Children’s Group for the free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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A quite brilliant read.  Relateable and what, as a person without OCD, I'd imagine it to be like.  I am, however, in no way an expert on these matters, but it certainly felt real. 
The principle character is so likeable and I found myself routing for him throughout to work through his "problems", and the compassion, truth and honesty of the surrounding characters, without ever being overly sentimental, only further enhanced my feelings towards him.
Definitely a recommendation to anyone, but certainly for those that perhaps have OCD and could do with a book that shows them they are not only not alone, but have a hero written in their voice, as well as those that live with or know someone with OCD.
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This is one of the most powerful books that I have read this year. I will definitely be recommending it to not only the young people I know but also all the adults that I work with. 

I truly believe this is a very important book to help us understand the needs of our pupils. I will honestly say I have never really thought about OCD in such depth - always thinking of it as they annoying thought or needing things to be a certain way. Ben has opened my eyes to the genuine struggles that those with OCD face daily. 

Ben and April are two friends that really teach us what friendship means. There for each other when it really matters - April has her own problems but she sees Ben and she supports him. 

The book also touches on addiction and family break downs. Two more important areas. 

This book will help build empathy and understanding. 

A truly heartfelt story that has been well researched and written. 

Order it now - you will not regret it.
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When I see blue
By Lily Bailey
Published by Hatchette Children’s Group

What an insight into the painful world of OCD and mental health told from a child’s perspective. Lily Bailey author and mental health activist, entwines narrative with reality to both entertain and educate. 

Ben wants to make a fresh start at his new school. He doesn’t want to be seen, so works hard to be invisible. He just wants to be a boy, going to school, to learn. 
But life at home is tough for Ben and kids can be so cruel. Counting in 4’s, corners, steps, repeatedly retracing his steps is exhausting and makes him stand out more than blending in. 

Cleverly written with sensitivity but with honesty and true grit, Ben tells his side of the story. The bully in his head gets the better of him time and time again but challenging this fear is the hardest and best thing he needs to do. 

With the help (and hinderance at times), it is April’s friendship, understanding and bravery that builds up Ben’s confidence to face his fears head on. 

Thank you Lily Bailey, this will help so many readers to understand and empathise with those who struggle in silence daily. 

Joanne Bardgett - Year 3 teacher of littlies, lover of books
#Hatchette Children’s Group
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This book is ... Wow! I could not put it down. It is so well written. Ben and April jump off the page and from day 1 you are rooting for them. As a teacher, I am very aware that the children I teach can have a whole world going on at home that we don't know about, but this book really brings this home. It covers so many hard topics, alcoholism, family separation, bullying, feelings of being an outsider and of course most importantly OCD. The way Lily Bailey paints the picture of how much Ben struggles with his compulsions, how much he hates the control they have on him and how hard it is for his family and friends to work out how to help him is so thoughtful and thought provoking. And then the pride as he starts to stand up to his bully brain and realistic way Lily Bailey has written about slip backs just gives hope that there are ways out. It is hard and the path isn't straight, but every step forward, no matter how small, is progress. This book is one that should be in every school library and I will definitely be adding it to my school collection.
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Ben is a boy living with OCD, only he doesn't know that that is what his 'Benny ways' are. When I See Blue follows Ben on an adventure of self discovery and growth. I adored this book - and Ben - from the very first page. I think I may have read this in record timing.
I will definitely be recommending this book to my students.
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“When I See Blue” tells a beautiful story about Ben, his family and his struggles with OCD.

The book is written so well, and a lot of it hit close to home - I also still struggle with an alcoholic parent and “wavy” feelings of anger about the situation, so reading that and in particular Kyle’s reaction and then later Ben’s reaction to their parents felt very real and familiar. 

April is a joy. I adore her! My only issue with the friendships created is that Pete should have been a bigger character after his introduction, so that felt like a missed opportunity. 

The reason this book lost a star is because the ending let it down slightly. I felt as though it was rushed in comparison to the rest of the book, and the ending was very sudden. 

Thank you for the early copy of this book! I am sure it will be a massive success! It deserves it.
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Over the last few years, there has been a shift in children’s books. No longer do the stories that our young people read feature almost exclusively those white, middle class perfect children of my youth as their protagonists, and quite rightly so. With today’s readers more aware than ever that we are not all the same, the range of titles reflecting this is ever increasing and in this new read by author and mental health activist Lily Bailey, we are given an insight into what it is like to not only live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but to do so within a dysfunctional family.

Starting a new school is potentially a stressful time for any child, but for 12-year-old Ben he has the additional pressures put upon him by his OCD. Entering the building through the red doors, he reflects on red being the colour of anger and considers whether or not that simple act of coming in each morning will lead to arguments between his parents. Following the signs to his new classroom, he is relieved to find that it is on the fourth floor, but unhappy that it has more than four corners, as four is his special number. Trying hard not to draw attention to himself, Ben keeps his head down when he and the other new members of the class are asked to introduce themselves and puts into play some of the various compulsive behaviours he has to try to keep his anxiety in check.

Staying invisible to the rest of the class seems like the way forward to Ben and he is taken aback when one of his classmates takes steps to befriend him. Glad to have someone to talk to, Ben starts to open up to them about his difference and school starts to be a little more tolerable. At home, however, things are very difficult due to his mother’s heavy drinking and its impact not only on Ben, but his older brother and father.

When Ben is offered the opportunity to see a therapist, he starts to understand his condition better and with support tries to start to fight against the compulsions and the obsessions which drive them. But with the other members of his family facing their own difficulties, will Ben be able to stand up to the bully that lives within his own head?

As a society, we seem to be getting better at talking about our mental health and the many negative ways in which it can be impacted but – sadly – OCD is not only misunderstood by a significant number of people, it is all too commonly dismissed as not being serious, or – even worse – seen as source of great amusement. Here, it is clear from the very first page just how disabling the condition is and how it is the OCD that is in control of Ben, not the other way round. Although to those of us who do not have this condition, its effects on Ben may seem hard to understand, to him they are totally logical and when he is given the opportunity to speak with a professional who understands how he is feeling, he is at last given hope that he will be able to free himself from at least some of its constraints.

Also covered in the book is Ben’s mother’s heavy drinking and its impact on her family. During a recent PSHE lesson I taught on alcohol misuse, many of my class had stories of their grown ups drinking to excess. In some cases, there were funny stories to be related of their parents doing silly things, but – sadly – for two or three of my young charges, it was clear that they had been frightened by seeing their adults out of control. How much more dreadful it must be for them if that is something that they bear witness to on a regular basis – as some must.

Perfect as a class reader in upper KS2, this would open the way for some great discussions about mental health in general, differences, transition, and OCD and adult alcohol abuse in particular and is a book that all primary and secondary schools should stock on their library shelves after its publication on June 9th. Until then, the most enormous thanks must go to publisher Hachette Children’s Group and to Net Galley for my virtual advance read.
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I devoured this book in one very short sitting and afterwards I just sat thinking for a short while. It was such a good read that had an impact on me and so I think it will definitely resonate with children and will be such an important book for them to read. 
Mental health is everywhere - I myself suffer really bad from anxiety that provides almost ocd tendencies at times - and so the reality is that most children will know someone who is affected by mental health, or affected themselves by it and this book will provide a resource that shows them how to deal with it. 
It was well written with a beautifully poignant narrative, engaging storyline and well developed characters that I loved, especially Ben. 
This book had some really uplifting and heart-warming moments and a good amount of humour which I think will be especially important for any children that are reading this because they can relate with Ben, 
A rea;lly good read.
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Thank you to the publisher, netgalley and the author for allowing me to read this eARC, I feel so blessed to be able to have critical conversations about great books and recommend books to my book club. 

This is a beautifully educational story about OCD and some light touches of anxiety, it talks about how people deal with these and how they supplement things to feel normal. This is a great children's middle-grade book, highly recommend.
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I immensely enjoyed reading this narrative and feel that it deals with a multitude of important topics (mental health, OCD, divorce, alcoholism, bullying, managing relationships) in an engaging and appropriate way for the younger reader to comprehend. The author successfully engages the reader and describes ‘The Thoughts’ which the main character, Ben, struggles with on a daily basis: I genuinely felt Ben’s angst when he was dealing with his obsessive and compulsive  thoughts and behaviours. I also understood the confusion he experienced regarding his parents’ conflicting responses to his behaviours and how confusing this must have been for him. I also felt immense empathy for his brother, Kyle - and would like to know more about his story.  I think there are more opportunities on the market to tell stories (such as Ben’s) from multiple perspectives.  At the end of the story the author ‘ties-up’ most of the narrative’s threads, whilst leaving the reader with enough questions to wonder how Ben,  his family and his best friend, April ‘get on’ in the end.

Perhaps the most ‘glaring’ issue in this book was the Hilltown Secondary School model. As a Year 8 pupil, Ben would be taught by subject specialists throughout - and not by one teacher for multiple subjects as Ben was - and this did make the book feel a little less genuine and believable. However, overall this is a great book which I would definitely recommend to UKS2 teachers and readers  

With an increasing focus in schools on children’s health and well-being, this will no doubt be an important addition alongside other similar titles such as ‘Goldfish Boy’ and ‘The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh’.
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I loved this book! It is beautifully written and I completely empathised with the main character, Ben, who struggles to get through a single day without worrying bad things are going to happen. Ben is convinced that, if he does things 4 times (shut doors, turn lights on and off etc), or in multiples of 4, and only wears black or white clothes, that everything will be ok - mum will be fine when he gets home, dad will be there, and so on.  When Ben strikes up an unlikely friendship with April, life becomes less lonely and he even finds himself trying new things for the very first time. But life never runs completely smoothly! 
A brilliant book! Poignant, clever, heart-warming, funny, inspiring. It tackles some very delicate issues with great sensitivity and I would highly recommend it!
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Ben and his family have moved to a new town and Ben is about to start at a new school. It's meant to be a fresh start for everyone. A chance for Ben to blend in, to be 'normal'. But the bully in Ben's head has followed him and is making the no-standing-out part really hard. Sometimes Ben's brain makes him count to 4 to prevent bad things happening. Sometimes it makes him tap or blink in 4s. Most of the time, it makes the smallest things feel like mammoth tasks. 

Even though Ben is trying his hardest, his family members don't help. His older brother is moodier than ever, dad is absent and mum is battling her own demons - Ben feels more out of control than ever. But then he meets April, and with his new friend, Ben might finally figure out how to stand up to the bully in his brain, once and for all. 

This is such a powerful and important read from Lily Bailey about living life with OCD. It's a story about friendship and navigating family relationships, about addiction and fighting your demons, about belonging and accepting yourself. It's a book every parent and teacher should read. 

With relatable characters and a captivating plot, you'll be engrossed in Ben's story. A word of advice - have your tissues handy!
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I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ben has OCD and is worried that if he doesn’t follow his routines, something awful will happen to his family. The trouble is, something awful already is and it seems he can’t do anything to change it. When he starts at a new school, he makes friends with April, another “freak” who helps him navigate teenage relationships and face up to his fears.

This is a lovely story about friendship, living with OCD, alcoholism and family relationships. I loved the way Ben’s counsellor gently unpicks aspects of Ben’s mixed up thinking and encourages him to challenge his compulsions.

I would have given the story five stars had it not been for some glaring inconsistencies which I would have expected to be picked up by an editor. As this was an ARC, perhaps these will be corrected before publication.

1. The story is supposed to be set in a high school, but no high school that I’m familiar with have pegs to hang coats; nor would a form teacher teach so many different subjects. The whole school setting lacks authenticity.
2. Early on in the book it mentions school finishing at 5pm and art club starting then. Later in the book, the time changes to 3:30.
3. After counselling mum suggests going for ice cream before heading back to the car, but they went there on the bus.
4. Mum picks Ben up from the hospital and drives him home, but he later says that dad took the car when he left home.
5. Mum’s group is on a Monday but just before the first session, April reminds Ben that it’s art club tomorrow. Art club is on Friday.

It is such a shame that these errors spoilt what is otherwise a great story.
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When I see Blue by Lily Bailey is a masterpiece! I know this is quite a dramatic statement to make, but it is such a wonderful example of how Middle Grade stories can delight, inspire and open up our understanding of the experiences of others, or offer reassurance, reflection and advice to those who live the experience too.

Sharing Ben’s journey as he experiences a new school, new home, new friendship, challenging home life and therapy sessions for his newly diagnosed  OCD, was an emotional journey and I was cheering him on (and aching for him to speak up) on the sidelines. I imagine children will fall in love with Ben too and his rebel friend April - their budding friendship is written with genuine warmth. April is a fabulous character – a real inspiration, but with her own troubles and flaws as we all have.

There is something for every reader to connect with – we all have brains that don’t always do right by us after all – but I can’t imagine what a book like this could mean to a child and family who are living with OCD. The way it captures the experience and follows Ben’s therapy is fantastic, while never feeling forced – it’s all about the story, and there is so much to take from this story, not least the warm, lovable characters that I think may have taken up permanent residence in my heart (it’s getting busy in there 😊), 

It is pitched perfectly for an upper middle grade audience (10-12) and is the kind of story I wish I could have read when I was a bubble of adolescent uncertainty in need of some reassurance! A window of compassion and understanding in an often huge, scary world, and a jumbled, growing mind.

There is so much going on – Not only does it shine a light on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and particularly how this manifests in children. but it also delves into the complexity of family and parental relationships, friendship, alcoholism, bullying and more. But above all, it is such a gorgeous novel, handled with sensitivity and warmth.

It’s also a massively satisfying story with compassion at its heart and I encourage teachers and parents everywhere to buy, borrow and share this with the children in your life (and enjoy it yourself too!)
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