The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness


Author/Illustrator/Composer: Matt Ottley

An allegorical story of a boy’s experience of psychosis, where mental illness is represented as a fantastical tree whose flowers are ecstasy and whose fruit is unbearable sadness. The recording of a full orchestral score composed by the author accompanies the book.

Recommended for Young Adult and Adult readers

ISBN: 9780648023852

Teacher Resource – Coming Soon


The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness is a groundbreaking, large-scale multi-modal project weaving together the worlds of literature, music and visual art in the poignant story of one boy’s journey into mental illness. Readers and listeners are offered a mesmerising visual and auditory tour de force about beauty and resilience, society and belief, that at its heart expresses hope for a greater understanding and embracing of difference. The narrative unfolds around the metaphor of a tree, growing within the boy, whose flower is ecstasy and whose fruit is sadness. This luminous, multi-faceted work is inspired by the experiences of its award-winning creator, Matt Ottley, who has lived with bipolar disorder all his life and been hospitalised on numerous occasions in mental health facilities. Having personally experienced the prejudices and challenges that come from suffering a mental illness, Matt’s aim is to offer a sensory insight through words, music and images into the experiences of those who suffer from such debilitating illnesses, particularly psychosis. This book comes with a CD recording of Matt Ottley’s symphony, which forms part of this multi-modal work. A masterful allegorical tale for the 21st century. MATT OTTLEY is an acclaimed and multiple award-winning author and illustrator. His most recent picture book, How to Make a Bird (with Meg McKinlay), was the winner of the CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year Award and joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Literature. As a composer, and an Endorsed Yamaha musician, Matt has written scores for many of his picture books, which have been performed by orchestras and musicians across Australia and internationally.


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