We have a new series on UrbanMoms right now about the journey of grieving. In an odd coincidence, I had pulled two books on loss for today after a couple of weeks of pondering, and now they seem even more apt.
These books are books to read together, to talk about, and to use as tools for opening difficult discussions, something picture books on heavier topics are so good for. I hope that if your family has need of this help, that your child may also find a bit of solace in understanding that they are not alone in their circumstance, an important benefit of stories like these.
by Cecil Castellucci
ISBN: 978 0 7636 3168 0
This book is a lovely look at loss from the perspective of a grade school child. It is told in simple language, as it would be when told by her – in fact, we don’t even learn her name, I realized at the end, because she is just talking about her grandma, telling us how she loved her, how she died, and what happened afterward. It’s a quiet book, and not emotional, she’s pretty matter-of-fact, as kids can be, but there is no lack of authentic caring and love here.
Grandma was special, and everything about her was this girl’s favourite – her smells, her homemade doughnuts, her jasmine tea. She had a way with plants, and loved them. Then Grandma begins to forget and moves to the hospital, where she dies. When everyone came to her house, they talked about her and packed up her house, and took some things to remember her by, but no one seemed to notice or remember Grandma’s favourite thing – her plants. The girl who learned at her elbow asks her mom if they can start their own garden as her own meaningful way of remembering and honouring her grandma, and picks up her gardening gloves to take home.
I like this story for its simplicity, its voice, and the way the girl homes in on her own way of keeping Grandma in her life every day. It’s quietly beautiful, and the soft, slightly whimsical illustrations are not about sadness, but about the things that the girl loved about her grandmother – the bright greens of her plants, the smudgy browns of the dirt. The girl is captured perfectly, too – her posture when being showered with the garden hose, for example, is spot on, with shoulders hunched to ears, arms clamped to sides, eyes squinched shut, yet smiling. I think it’s a great pick for talking with a child about how they would like to remember a loved one they have lost, and finding ways to keep their spirit and memory alive.
The Day Tiger Rose Said Goodbye
by Jane Yolen
ISBN: 978 0 375 86663 0
This book is a lovely and peaceful book about an old cat who knows her time is coming, and goes about saying goodbye to the special things in her life before settling down to sleep and dying.
This is a perfect book for reading with a child who has an old pet whose time is coming soon, as it makes her death a natural ending that she is ready for, and even welcomes, as she is old and tired. That she says goodbye to the family and other animals gives a really nice sense of closure. (For those whose animals have a less natural passing, I highly recommend the classic The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst, about the passing of a cat and how the family remembers him as they bury him.)
The illustrations are softer than I usually like, but not so soft as to be off-putting, and the cat is lovely, and wonderfully cat-like. I think the softness of it does work well also with the peaceful, quiet mood of the book.
A note on the ending – I think it’s important to mention that when Tiger Rose does finally lay down her head, she goes up into the sky and disappears, pictured for a moment in the clouds. There isn’t a mention of an afterlife, but it does definitely have a spirit-leaving feel to it, which parents can make of what they will in discussing the story with their own children.