A moving, surprisingly funny, and inspiring graphic memoir by a woman who lost her two-year-old son after heart surgery, Billy, Me & You is a bracing and memorable account of recovery after bereavement.
Nicola Streeten’s little boy, Billy, was two years old when he died following heart surgery for problems diagnosed only a few days earlier. Ten years later, Streeten revisited her diaries and notebooks made at the time: this wonderfully vibrant narrative recounts how she and her partner recovered.
Gut-wrenchingly sad at times, her graphic memoir is an unforgettable portrayal of trauma and our reaction to it – and, especially, the humour or absurdity so often involved in our responses. As Streeten’s story unfolds and we follow her and her partner’s heroic efforts to cope with well-meaning friends and day-to-day realities, we begin to understand what she means by her aim to create a ‘dead baby story that is funny’. Streeten is the first British woman to have published a graphic memoir.
Golnar Nabizadeh, The Conversation17 May 2018
Seven comics with vital things to say about humanity: Billy Me & You
Nicola Streeten’s graphic memoir
tells of the devastating loss of her two-year old son, Billy, after he underwent heart surgery. Drawn on lined paper and built from the diary she kept at the time, Billy, Me & You
explores in harrowing detail Streeten’s anger, rage and despair. In one particularly memorable sequence, the British artist silently awards people marks out of ten for the reaction to Billy’s death. Sadness and bereavement mingle with the absurd and humorous, revealing how loss and recovery can shape a mother’s life.
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Observer17 January 2016
Several close friends of mine have lost a child, a loss that is unimaginable to me, and have then gone on to create charities to help others cope. This beautiful book, by Nicola Streeten, gave me a rare insight into something of what they went through and continue to live with every day. I’m patron of Reuben’s Retreat, a charity that provides a getaway for grieving families and a counselling service. This book is on the shelves of the library there.View source
Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics7 September 2015
[This] is a memoir about losing your child, something that forces one to be vulnerable, and the artwork reflects the vulnerability. Loss is not beautiful; it is hard and terrible and mean and unforgiving, and... Streeten, when deciding the direction of her art, wanted her text to also be these things. There are moments where the art tightens when she draws a block directly addressing the readers. It is as if these more direct drawings (which lie on top of lined notebooks paper) give the reader hope of recovery, and Streeten made a wise decision by sprinkling these pages throughout her text.
Parliament of Dreams19 April 2012
The only thing that matters is whether an artist has something worth saying and the ability to say it well. In Billy, Me & You, Nicola Streeten has both. Given its subject, the book is naturally moving, but its humour, honesty and insight are certainly not inevitable. They are the result of artistry – the alchemy of turning the lead of everyday lives into the gold of art.View source
Guardian: Bryan and Mary Talbot’s top 10 graphic memoirs18 April 2012
The death of a child has to be the worst thing imaginable that could happen to parents. It's an extraordinary subject for a graphic memoir. Streeten kept a diary after the sudden death of her two-year-old son, Billy. She has used it as the basis for her debut graphic novel, so it provides insight into surviving what for most of us hardly even bears thinking about. It is a surprise then to find it provokes laughter as well as tears. The combination of journal format and naïve artwork somehow helps to make reading about grief and loss not only bearable but entertaining.View source
Independent6 December 2011
Child bereavement may not sound like material for a comic strip, but graphic books can explore human pain with honesty and wit. A moving and often unexpectedly funny memoir.View source
Pamreader26 October 2011
I've read this book repeatedly since it landed through my letter box. I've cried, laughed and often found myself nodding in agreement while thinking 'that's so true'. Billy, Me & You is extraordinarily unflinching and honest as Nicola reflects on the grieving process with compassion, humour and humility. This is a novel that will resonate with anyone who has experienced the devastating loss of someone they love.View source
Richard Bruton,Forbidden Planet25 October 2011
This has a universal, empathetic appeal...To say it’s moving really undervalues Billy, Me & You. It is, of course, how could it not be, given the subject matter. But it’s so much more than that. For a start it’s a page turner, a single sitting read, a truly satisfying journey undertaken with the author. The emotional intensity comes through her art, and its openess and roughness is endearing, welcoming, personal and real. This is a hugely personal memoir that serves so many purposes... This is entertaining, original, thought provoking stuff.View source
Herald16 October 2011
Billy, Me & You comes in a plain yellow wraparound cover and, if you open it up, Nicola Streeten’s drawings are at first glance crude and unsophisticated (no borders etched out in Arabic script here). But once you start to read, you can see it’s not so much crude as raw, a red-eyed, fist-in-the-gut account of how Streeten and her partner (and their friends and family) dealt with – or didn’t – the death of their two-year-old son Billy after heart surgery. What’s most remarkable is that it will make you laugh. And then there are moments that will tear your heart open.View source
Rachel Cooke, Psychologies
A taboo-busting and, at times, very funny graphic memoir of grief and recovery.
Streeten's honesty at revealing some of her less generous thoughts, along with her sense of humour, manage to keep this sensitive material far from grim, while remaining extremely moving. I see this book in the same revolutionary vein [as punk rock], its artwork not seeking to soothe the reader with beautiful images, but rewarding, with its raw emotion, and an ultimately uplifting message, those who can look beyond aesthetic orthodoxy.View source
I am an avid consumer of all graphic novels, and I'm especially fond of biographical ones such as Harvey Pekar and Art Spiegelman. This book is up there with them. It is a brave story of what it is like to have a child who dies. Brave, because all the author's vulnerabilities are laid bare. We get an idea of how much and how long it hurts. But humour and love win out, shine through. It's a book with very difficult subject matter that is moving and enjoyable. It's a must-read for the biographical graphic novel fan and anyone interested in human nature.
Janet Dowling, Cruse Bereavement Care Volunteer
It is touching, enlightening and endearing. The movement between the different graphic forms allows the author to give a diverse emphasis to different parts of her grieving process. It also allows the reader to 'fill in the gaps' by reference to their own experiences. Bringing it together in this graphic art form gives the reader an opportunity to experience the grief process at its rawest, through its positive resolution. It's a story of pain, angst and recrimination but also of tenderness, patience and hope. It could be very useful for bereavement counsellors and other interested parties... [as] a resource that shows the mess, mixed messages and misunderstandings of bereavement and how lives can grow around the loss.
This is a unique and moving memoir of what can't be compared to anything else: the loss of one's child. Going beyond the usual cliches about grief, it is not only harrowing and disturbing but acutely funny: the reader will laugh and cry, as Streeten teaches us more about loss than any of the standard textbooks on this subject. A brilliant and original book that deserves a wide audience.
In just the first few pages... Streeten establishes a rapport with the readership that is never lost throughout the entirety of this graphic diary. Every so often a graphic novel comes along that shakes you up from a jaded malaise and makes you remember that comics are a medium that has the power to share experience and express emotion like no other. Incisively perceptive, uncompromisingly observant and keenly insightful, Billy, Me & You is not just an astonishing piece of comics material in its own right but also an ambassador for the criminally overlooked work of the small press.
Nicola discusses the circumstances of Billy's death and the grieving process with Matthew Bannister - (about 15 minutes in).View source
British Medical Association
This book is for all of us who have suffered bereavement or witnessed the grief of others. This is an easy-to-read book which gives bereaved families ‘permission’ to feel different emotions at different times… it would be good to keep in a public library for people to access if they feel they are ready.