Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick

After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with coronavirus, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names “Sticky McStickstick”, he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. This moving picture book from the former Children’s Laureate, with illustrations from Tony Ross, tells a story of perseverance and hope, and is a testament to the importance of overcoming fear and learning to accept help.

Walker Books
Sticky McStickstick is illustrated by Tony Ross

Michael Rosen is a National Treasure and so many people were very worried about him when he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020. It took him a long time to recover, and while he did he had the support of his walking stick (as well as family and NHS staff, obviously). Many Different Kinds of Love, a collection of Rosen’s poems and the coronavirus diaries of his nurses, was published by Ebury in March 2021 for grownups to read, but this is for everyone…and I mean everyone. When I was asked if I’d like to send a few questions for him, of course I said yes!

‘Many Different Kinds of Love’ has already been published, on adult lists, did you write the two books at the same time?

No. I wrote MDKOL first but I noticed that I had mentioned Sticky McStickstick. People asked me about the stick and I started telling them things about where it is or what happened when I tried to walk with it and so on. A voice in my head told me that I could personify the stick and it then became fun to write it all out as a story. 

This complements your Sad Book beautifully. Why do you think having books about such emotive subjects is important for children?

Books for children can be about anything that the adults who care for children think are OK things to talk about. Society has taboos around children and childhood and writers have to respect these. Subjects like death and serious illness are on the edge of the taboos. Some people won’t take their children to funerals, for example. Or they might not tell their children about a terminal illness. That’s their choice. My two books go into an area where some have those taboos but others think that it’s helpful to talk about experiences such as these which are as much about life as eating or sleeping. All books open up trains of thought and conversations. I’d be very glad if both those books do just that with children being looked after or brought up by people who think it’s a good idea to talk about such things. 

Do you have thoughts about how ‘Sticky McStickstick’ might best be used in schools?

I would start with a class talking in pairs to each other their illnesses and accidents, swapping stories, perhaps writing about them or drawing pictures of them. Then reading my book. Or it could be the other way round. Reading my book first, perhaps. There are open-ended trigger questions that are helpful too e.g. Is there anything in this book that makes you think of anything that has happened to you or to anyone you know? Is there anything in this book that makes you think of anything you’ve ever read before, or heard in a song, or on the TV or in a film? If you could ask anyone in the book a question, what would you ask? Can you answer that question? If you could ask the author a question, what would it be? Can you answer that question? Are you affected by any part of the book? Which part? How?  Why? 

Tony Ross has illustrated a number of your books. Do you let him get on with it or do you make suggestions about what the illustrations might look like?

I most certainly do let him get on with it. I write the words. The illustrator, designer and editor make the book.

Sticky McStickstick was published on 4 November 2021 by Walker Books

(9781529502404, £12.99, Hardback)

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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