Lucy Rowland and Becky Cameron
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Grief and loss are incredibly difficult topics to handle with children of any age and it’s both rare and wonderful to see a picture book that approaches the death of a parent with such sensitivity and delicacy.
Erin’s daddy sees colour in everything. No matter the weather, even on the rainiest of days, the two of them would don wellies and waterproof clothes and out they’d go splashing in puddles and having a wonderful time together. “We can’t see rainbows without the rain,” Daddy would say. Whatever the situation, day or even night, he always found something colourful to enjoy with the rest of the family.
Then Erin realises things are changing: her Daddy becomes increasingly poorly and the world becomes greyer until one day … Quiet. Here Becky’s illustrations are suffused with emotion and overwhelmingly, with love.
In the following days and weeks the other family members miss Daddy enormously but they join together in sharing memories of the colour and joy he brought to all their lives. Erin remembers the scrapbook and little by little they manage to smile again.
Then one rainy day, Mummy, Erin and her small sibling venture out
and on the way home when the rain has almost stopped, they see in the sky, something wonderful and we share an incredibly poignant moment …
Both words and pictures are pitch perfect and work in perfect harmony throughout. This is a book that offers families an ideal starting point for talking about the death of a loved one and equally important, about the person who has died. All primary schools should add a copy to their collections.
The Boy and the Gorilla
Jackie Azúa Kramer and Cindy Derby
Profound in its impact, this is a story of loss, mourning and grief told entirely in dialogue and through a sequence of absolutely beautiful, understated illustrations.
We see a young boy, his grief palpable, on the day of his mother’s funeral as he envisions a companion – a gentle gorilla
– that accompanies him through those dark hours ready to answer all the questions that the little child is reluctant to put to his father. The creature’s wisdom is demonstrated through its responses to ‘Where did Mum Go?’ ‘No one knows for sure.’ Can’t my mum come back home?’ ‘No but she’s always with you.’ ‘I wish my Mum was here to read to me.’ ‘It’s a good story. Your father might like this book too.’
And little by little, through this unlikely friendship, the boy starts to open up and express his feelings: ‘Sometimes I want to be alone.’ … ‘Mum and I loved baseball.’ He also begins to find comfort in such activities as biscuit baking and tending to the garden flowers: ‘The seeds you planted together are like your mother’s love, a gift to keep forever.’
What this gentle gorilla shows is the importance of being able to talk about what you’re going through, particularly with those (like dad) who will be feeling equally sad and alone, as yet unable to open up.
Eventually, we see father and son beginning to feel their way forwards together through sharing a story and planting new flowers
and finally, walking off together, taking those first steps on the path to healing.
A Sky of Diamonds
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
When Mia hears that her mother has died (in an accident at work), the colour drains right out of her world. She tells readers just how it was for her: some days she was unable to get out of bed, on others she couldn’t sleep. “There were days when my heart hurt so much it was hard to eat, hard to breathe and sometimes it felt hard even to be me anymore.” she says. Her dad explains that Mia is grieving and there will be up days and very down days, rather like being on a roller-coaster. She feels a volcanic kind of anger deep inside ready to explode at any time; perhaps she’d done something to cause the death; what if her dad died too?
After the anger comes sadness and it’s then that Mia’s dad suggests a memory box …
wherein they can both put things connected with special memories and at the same time, have a time together when they could talk about Mia’s mum and she could ask questions.
Slowly there come times – her birthday is coming up – when Mia is able to feel a little more positive about life That’s what her mum would want, Dad tells her. Eventually Mia finds her own way of coping: she looks at the stars and talks to the brightest one.
Written by a social worker who has much experience with children who have suffered the loss of family members, this is an extremely helpful resource for children having to cope with the loss of a loved one and those adults having to support them through their grieving; it’s strength is most definitely the first person narrative and the activities embedded within the text.
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