Mental illness impacts every member of the family, and if the children in your life have questions, you will need answers. In the new book, Pockets Full of Rocks, the author helps readers understand the experience of a parent with depression. As a young girl gently questions her depressed father, the story offers direct answers that help her understand what her dad is going through. Author Yair Engelberg shared his experience creating Pockets Full of Rocks with us in this interview.

Magination Press: What inspired you to write Pockets Full of Rocks?
Yair Engelberg: Regarding my own personal experience with my daughter in the shadow of depression: As having experienced this, I wanted to share my knowledge and experience with other families in a similar situation and hopefully help them.

MP: Why do children need books about parental mental illness?
YE: Depression in the eyes of children is not something tangible or concrete that can be seen. I think it is important to explain depression to children in a way that they will understand. In addition, it is important not to shy away from speaking about depression and rather, understand its impact in families in which a parent is suffering from it.

MP: Why did you decide to tell the story through a conversation between Ella and her father?
YE: My personal story with this topic began when my daughter began asking me questions about what I was going through, and I didn’t have any way to explain it to her in an age-appropriate fashion. The goal is to initiate a dialogue with children and not fear starting a conversation on the topic.

MP: The whole world is under increased stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and families are feeling the impact. How do you think Pockets Full of Rocks could be especially helpful right now?
YE: Due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, there is a sharp increase in depression both in adults and children, as there is an increase in stressors and complex situations. Thus, using this book as a tool to discuss depression is all the more currently relevant.

MP: This was your first picture book. What was it like to create it?
YE: The writing process allowed me to discover writing as a therapeutic tool which allowed for an internal journey. Working with the illustrator was incredibly important in that it was key in creating a book that could introduce children to the topic in the best possible manner.

MP: What was it like to see your illustrator MacKenzie Haley’s interpretation of your words?
YE: When I first received the illustrations, I immediately understood that the illustrator had understood the meaning of what I wanted to get across in my words, and the pictures were fully able to capture the writing.

MP: Do you have plans to write any more books?
YE: Writing this book lit within me a passion to continue writing. I greatly enjoy the process and there are more books in the pipeline.

MP: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
YE: I enjoy being at home with my family and enjoying quality time with them.

MP: Is there a fun fact about you that readers might not know that you’d like to share?
YE: I very much enjoy playing soccer. On a side note, I have created a protocol to use soccer in a therapeutic setting in order to help children with social difficulties.

MP: What was your favorite children’s book when you were growing up?
YE: Having been born in Switzerland, Swiss children books were an integral part of my family’s life. Specifically, there was a book about a Swiss superhero named Globi who still finds his way into my imagination. This has shown me just how powerful and impactful children’s books can be.

If you are experiencing depression, seek professional help. APA has a psychologist locator that can help you find a therapist near you.

by Yair Engelberg

This Article's Author

Yair Engelberg is a psychologist who is certified by the Schneider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Training Program for Child and Youth Therapy. This is his picture book debut. He lives in Israel.

Related Books from Magination Press

  • Pockets Full of Rocks

    Yair Engelberg

    As a young girl gently questions her depressed father, he offers direct answers that help her understand what he is going through. This gentle, hopeful book will help kids cope with a parent’s mental illness. It is developmentally appropriate, addressing common questions that kids have.

    This will be a very useful guide for parents as well as psychologists and mental health professionals working with young children.