Lili's parents have been off spending some quality time with each other, and they've parked Lili and Max with Grandma. But when they arrive to pick up the kids, things aren't good. Lili's in a terrible mood, which turns into near-hysteria when they discover that their dog Pluche has run off.
"He's only been gone a day!" says Dad. "We'll find him again!"
They call the police immediately and put up notices in the local stores. But Lili is teary and clingy, and she's behaving like a much younger girl. She wants Mom to undress her when it's time for bed.
"Maybe a nappy too?" asks Max sarcastically. But it isn't very funny. The parents are worried, and Paul asks if it wouldn't be safest to get another dog.
They haven't decided, when there's barking from outside. The mutt has returned! Lili fusses over him, but she's still not back to normal. She keeps bursting into tears for no reason, even at school, and she's always snapping at Max and her friends.
"You know," says practical-minded Mom, "maybe we should think about seeing une psy
"Never!" says Dad. "We'll sort out our problems ourselves!"
Things don't get better, though, and Mom has a doctor friend. He meets them for lunch and says he can suggest someone good. She's brilliant at establishing contact with kids.
"We're going to see... a lady," says Dad nervously when he talks with Lili that evening.
"A psychologist!" says Lili, sharp as ever. "Tell it like it is! Well, I'm not crazy!"
They have an informative discussion about the issues. Madness is when you can't control your thoughts and actions at all, and it's very painful. Lili's just anxious and stressed.
Mom turns up at the psychologist's office, more or less dragging her husband and daughter behind her. You can see at a glance that the psy
is every bit as nice as advertised. She's drawn to look rather like Miss Honey in the Quentin Blake illustrations from Matilda
"I'm here to help you, Lili," she says. "If we talk together, we can dig your problems out from wherever they're hiding."
"I'm here because I don't want to be rude to Uncle Georges," snaps Lili, but she's already unbending a little.
Lili starts visiting the psy
several times a week. Nothing much seems to happen, though. Max takes the opportunity to needle his sister.
"Lili fait psy-psy!
" he sniggers, a pun which I will let you work out for yourselves. It's not at all nice.
Clara and Marlène, Lili's two best friends, are also wondering what's going on. Where is
she all the time? One day, they follow her and discover her dark secret.
"Promise you won't tell anyone!" begs Lili.
To her surprise, it turns out that Marlène knows all about les psys
. She's been seeing one ever since her father left. And Clara's uncle also has a shrink. This isn't nearly as weird or shameful as Lili thought.
A few weeks later, a meeting is scheduled where Lili, her parents and the nice psychologist all sit down and talk it though together. Lili has made stunning progress.
"Mom," she says, "You were going to drop me off at Grandma's, and you were angry. You said 'You're just killing me!' I worried the whole time you were away that you were going to have an accident and it would be my fault."
"I should never have said that, Lili!" says Mom, conscience-stricken. "It was just an expression! I'm sorry!"
"And then the dog was gone," says the psy
, and "and all those bad thoughts got mixed up in Lili's head."
"But now I've untangled them!" says Lili. "And I don't have to come back here any more. Though I can if I want to."
As usual, it all ends happily. Lili's quite back to her usual self. I suppose you can argue that it's way too simplistic, but I'm impressed: an intelligent and responsible treatment of a really difficult subject, which is probably still accessible to most 8 year olds. If your own child is having psychological problems, I strongly recommend it.