The Hare-Shaped Hole

The Hare-Shaped Hole
John Dougherty and Thomas Docherty
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Despite their differences Bertle (a turtle) and Hertle (a hare) are almost inseparable. Hertle, the speedy one felt ill at ease in the water but with Bertle’s advice and patient support she was never left behind even though she never learned to swim. “We’re friends to the end!” they would both say but then suddenly and without warning, ‘the end came.’ Hertle was there no more; poor Bertle, all he can see is a hare-shaped hole in the air, nothing more of her at all.

Bertle finds it hard to believe so he sets out in search of his friend; he looks high, low and everywhere in between but all that remains is that empty Hertle-shaped hole. Bertle’s disbelief turns to anger and he gives vent to his feelings by shouting out until his throat hurts. No matter what Bertle tries to do, nothing brings back his friend, though the hole still accompanies him everywhere.

In utter despair Bertle sits and sobs at the side of the river, feeling himself surrounded by his sorrow.
As he sits immobilised by sorrow, a kind bear, Gerda comes along. She waits a while and then gives Bertle a bear-cuddle, allowing him to feel as deeply as he needed. 

After a while Gerda speaks some very wise words to the young turtle, telling him that the only thing to do is to fill that hare-shaped hollow with happy memories of the time the two friends spent together.

So begins the healing process for Bertle; certainly his emptiness won’t go away quickly but, now he has a new friend, the very wise Gerda to offer her helping paws.

The rawness readers will feel on first reading or hearing this heartfelt rhyming story of Bertle’s loss, grief and gradual embracing of life without Hertle, soon gives way to one of tenderness and appreciation of both the way John Dougherty’s tale is written and the manner in which Thomas Docherty captures the emotions in every one of his lovingly created illustrations. You might want a packet of tissues handy when you read this.

Ultimately uplifting, this poignant book is one to add to all primary school collections.

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