Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile, a children’s book written by Sanjana Kapur and illustrated by Sunaina Coelho, tells a story about mental health and depression in a child-friendly way. Chiru grows up playing great games with her brother and enjoying their time together, but that was in the past. Chiru goes on to describe how her brother has a new friend, more specifically a monster named Dukduk who’s taken up residence on Bhaiya’s back. Throughout the story, Chiru tries to make sense of Dukduk, and observes how it has changed her brother, and how their family reacts to Bhaiya.
The story adds a more explanatory note as an epilogue, describing what depression is and can feel like, and gives the reader advice on what to do if they see someone who looks like they might have it. The author, Sanjana, (with the professional input of Dr. Ashlesha Bagadia) does a great job of personifying depression as a monster similar to the ones we may have heard in our childhood: the monsters that may live under your bed or the monsters that would come and take you away if you didn’t eat all the food on your dinner plate. Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile holds an important conversation about mental health delivered in a simple, understandable manner, cultivating empathy in children, even if they don’t quite understand the gravity of depression. It’s all too common that we see people who are not sympathetic towards the struggle of mental illnesses, as can be seen in Bhaiya’s own mother, father, and grandparents. This type of dismissal may be intentional or unintentional, but the harm it does is not small in any way. The story also takes a look at how depression may never truly go away, and can be a chronic condition, but that does not mean the person cannot recover and live life to its fullest capacity. Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile is a must-read for children and their parents to unpack mental health and depression together in a family-friendly way.
Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile is meant for older children, with StoryWeavers classifying it as a Reading Level 4 in English, and can be read here: Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile.