Monday, February 14, 2011

Children's Books on Grief: Where is Grandpa?

This next book in our series may be chosen by some simply for the beautiful illustrations.  This is one reason I wanted to spend time reviewing some books on childhood grief.  Although great lists exist out there, we don't often get to see inside the book itself.  Having a toddler myself, I am aware that it is often the illustrations that spark her interest in reading.

Somewhat like our last review on Maria Shriver's book What's Heaven?, author T.A. Barron describes this book as autobiographical. The personal nature of the story definitely adds to the sincerity of the story.

Where is Grandpa? is written by T.A. Barron and illustrated by Christ K. Soentpiet. The book was published by Philomel Books in 2001 and has the age group listed as 4-8.

The voice is first person, and the plot follows a young boy on the day of his Grandpa's death. Much of the story is told in memories, as each family member shares about a  favorite time with Grandpa.  However, when it is the boy's turn he is speechless. After being prompted by his mother about a story he thinks, "Even if I did, I didn't feel like telling it."

Although the family tries to think of suggestions, I appreciate that the boy is allowed to remain silent. The boy then works up the courage for the big question, "Where is grandpa now?"

The final pages attempt to answer this question.  Although the word heaven is used, the father quickly adds, "heaven means different things to different people. And it's hard to explain."  Ultimately it is described as "any place where people who love each other have shared some time together."  This allows the boy to get out of his sad funk and begin to think of the places he shared a memory with his grandpa. In fact the last illustration of the book shows the boy actually smiling.

As mentioned, the illustrations are exquisite. Done with a very realistic feel, there are a lot of nature scenes with special attention on the lighting. Most of the story takes place at dusk, and the illustrator actually moves us subtly  through a sunset to darkness during the book.

This is another book I would recommend. It is lighter than some of the other books reviewed, not tackling as many concepts or questions.  However, I appreciate the simplicity and hope offered in the story.  Like the Shriver book, because this is based on a personal story, we encounter this family's personal beliefs/opinions and one should be comfortable in the concepts presented.

One more to book to go... stay tuned.

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