Category Archives: Death Divorce etc.

The Memory Box, A Book about Grief












The Memory Box, A Book about Grief
by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Thea Baker
Sparkhouse Family, 2017

A book to help a child coping with a death. Inspired when the author’s family was coping with two separate deaths.

The story opens with a child losing a balloon, then smoothly transitions into a how that compares with losing a person. It addresses, “Does love die?” as well as the fear many have that they’ll forget the person who died. Thinking of activities once shared, the story seamlessly moves into creating a memory box. As she recalls old dreams and as she does those things she and the person gone had once dreamed of doing, she creates new memories that she shares with the loved one.  The book ends gently with, “You’ll always be with me…” and “… I’ll never forget.”

Illustrations show child activities and friends and family gatherings to comfort the reader.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

A Perfect Day

A Perfect Day
by Lane Smith
Roaring Book Press, 2017

A perfect day means different things to different creatures, but what happens when it means the same thing?

The cat enjoys the sun in the flower bed, the dog enjoys a water’s coolness in a wading pool, the Chickadee enjoys the seeds in a bird feeder, and the squirrel enjoys an ear of corn…..until bear arrives!  It was a perfect day for squirrel, Chickadee, dog and cat and now it’s a perfect day for bear.

With richly textured, whimsical paintings showing the emotions of each creature, the young reader knows exactly what is happening when each creature enjoys their perfect day and when it is taken away. It tugs at the heart, but life is what it is.  Somehow the story is comforting.

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Two is Enough












Two is Enough

by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
RP KIDS, 2015

A book overflowing with love as single parents and their children share life together, happy to be ‘two.’  Written in rhyme we learn, “Two is enough for a snowball fight, for building a family, frosty and white.”  Illustrations focus on four families in a variety of scenes, doing a variety of activities from cycling, gardening, singing, and even crying.  It ends with, “Sure as one plus one will always be two, Two is enough when its’s me plus you!”  A lovely poem and a heartwarming book for families with one adult and one child.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

My New Mom and Me













My New Mom and Me

by Renata Galindo
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016

In simple, muted colors, author/illustrator Renata Galindo shows how a newly adopted child (shown as a dog) adjusts to his new mother (shown as a cat).  At first the dog tries to look like his new mother, and the mother assures him he doesn’t need ‘fixing’ and that she likes that they are different.  The child plays with his mom and lets her take care of him.  Sometimes she makes him do things that make him mad and he doesn’t like her at that moment, but Mom assures him that they will be okay and they both must try harder.  They agree that they are learning how to be a family.  The story is nurturing, loving, understated and simply told so a young child who is adopted, or a friend of someone who is adopted, can grasp the subtleties of their new situation.

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Our Gracie Aunt













Our Gracie Aunt
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrations by Jon J Muth
Hyperion Books, 2002

Again, Jacqueline Woodson tells a heart-wrenching, yet heart-warming story, this one of children who have parents unable to care for them.  Told with love and dignity, children not familiar with this lifestyle can get a glimpse into what it’s like for abandoned children.  For children who have been abandoned, it reminds them they are not alone.

Two children refuse to open the door for Ms. Roy, ’cause their mama told them not to open the door to strangers, even though they had not seen their mama for several days.  After returning several times, Ms. Roy seemed to know things about them, and they were hungry.  They hoped foster care had toys when they let Ms. Roy in.  The children were taken to their aunt Gracie’s house and they learned to love the safe, comfortable, dependable house.  After several weeks they visited their mama, but she wasn’t able to take them home.  They decided they liked aunt Gracie’s house better.  Someday their mama could take them, but not now.  They returned to Aunt Gracie and gave her a long, deep hug.

Illustrations by Jon J Muth bring visual richness and highlight the children’s plight and emotions in warm, comforting tones.

Read more reviews on Amazon.

Kindred Souls


Kindred Souls
Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen Books, 2015

I couldn’t put it down once I started and I was crying by the end.  Another wonderful read by Newbery-award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan.

Readers peek into the relationship 10-year old Jake has with his grandfather, Billy.  They have a special relationship and visit the special places on the farm, including the remains of an old sod house his grandfather lived in many years before.  His grandfather says they have kindred souls, something Jake doesn’t quite understand in the beginning.  His grandfather asks Jake to build him a sod house; Jake doesn’t want to.  Then one day a dog appears and Grandfather knows it has come for him and claims it.  Soon, Grandfather takes sick and is eventually taken to the hospital.  The dog bolts to follow the ambulance taking Grandfather.  Grandfather asks Jake to sleep with the dog until he returns.  The doctor gives the family special permission to allow the dog into the hospital.  The family seems to know Grandfather’s time may be coming soon, but never say that.  Instead, they build him his sod house.  Grandfather returns to enjoy his house and Jake learns that he and grandpa do have kindred souls.

A touching story I finished in one read.  Kindred Souls is a beautiful book about a quiet boy dealing with the death of his grandfather, his kindred soul.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.

9-12, quiet hero, dog, death/etc

Prickly Jenny

Prickly Jenny
by Sibylle Delacroix
Owlkids Books, 2015
Originally published in France.

Jenny is having a ‘prickly’ day where nothing is going right. She’s grumpy at breakfast and “doesn’t say good morning because, really, what’s so good about it?”  On a day trip to the fair with her dad, she grumbles and drags her feet.  And naptime is for babies!  She says, “Leave me alone!”, but cries when her mom goes away.  She just doesn’t know what she wants.  She is all out of sorts.  The truth is, she just wants to be loved.  Prickly Jenny will remind youngsters, that “tomorrow, when she’s bigger, it will get better.”

If you have a Prickly Jenny or Jack, they may relate to having a prickly day and identify with the story.  But watch out, your child may bring this book to you when you’re feeling prickly!

Read more reviews on Amazon.


When a Dad Says “I Love You”

When a Dad Says “I Love You”
by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2013

Traditional dads say “I Love You” in many ways to their child, without always using those three words.  This book sheds light in a gentle way of some of the many ways some dads—and some moms!—say I love you to their children.

Some dads show their love by making pancakes, some by chasing their kids in the back yard for fun, some by helping their child learn to ride a bike, or taking them to watch a parade.  If a dad, or other family member, doesn’t always use those three magic words, share with them this book and it will help them understand.

This is a wonderfully reassuring book for the child who doesn’t hear the spoken words, “I love you”.

Can Picture Books Change the Way We Think About Mental Health?!

It appears Australians allow for discussions of depression and death, unlike mainstream Americans.  Cheers, that they bravely publish picture books for the young to open doors to these life experiences.    Read reviews on The Red Tree and Duck, Death and the Tulip and change your perspectives on depression and death during May is National Mental Health Month.

The Red Tree 
Shaun Tan
Simply Read Books, 2003 (Canada)
Originally published in Australia

If a child experiences depression, or observes a friend or family member with depression, this book can, perhaps, help them understand it on an intuitive level.

A true picture book, half the story is told through its exquisite illustrations.  The opening line, “sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to” shows a girl sitting in bed in a rather drab room.  The next line “darkness overcomes you” shows a girl walking down the sidewalk in a large, faceless city, with a giant fish hovering above her, diminishing her in size.The Red Tree 200x301

Anyone who has experienced depression, understands these words and pictures.  If a child knows someone who has depression, it can give them insights into that person’s experience. Quiet and reflective, the story goes on to describe the feelings one typically has with depression.  At the end of her day, the girl returns to her room to find a small red leaf standing in the middle of her room.  And as she enters, it transforms into a bright, brilliant red leafed tree, with the words, “just as you imagined it would be,” reassuring the reader that a depressed person’s thoughts of hope will come true, in time.  This book is more appropriate for the older reader, ages 6-12.

Duck, Death and the Tulip
By Wolf Erlbruch
Gecko Press, 2011
Originally published in New Zealand and Australia

Another picture book where the illustrations tell at least half the story, we meet the duck and a hollow-eyed character who introduces himself as death.

Duck Death 200x283After Duck and Death meet, the duck decides Death is a really ‘quite nice’.  When Duck suggests they go to the pond, we learn, “Death had been dreading that.”  The reader quietly learns something is about to happen.  They swim for a while, and Duck offers to cover and warm Death, as water for Death is not agreeable.  When they wake the next morning, Duck is surprised she is not dead.  Duck discusses Angels and a place in earth where ducks could be roasted, but Death makes no comments on her chatter.  They choose to spend their day in a tree, and Duck thinks, “That’s what it will be like when I’m dead.  The pond alone, without me.”  As we get closer to the time, the reader is gently told death is coming.  They spend the summer together, but when cold starts coming in, death lies down, and that is the end for her.  Death carries her to the water and watches her float away.  Death is a part of life.

Read more reviews on Amazon: The Red Tree and Duck, Death, and the Tulip

Always Mom, Forever Dad

Always Mom, Forever Dad
A story of divided households
by Joanna Rowland, illustrated by Penny Weber
Tilbury House Publishers, 2014

In Always Mom, Forever Dad author Joanna Rowland reassures young ones that they will be loved by both parents, when parents divorce and move apart.  And, illustrating family members from different races, artist Penny Weber shows mom and dad living apart happens in many different families, suggesting that whatever the reader’s situation is, it is acceptable.

Each scene shows a child and their parent doing normal things, like baking banana bread, looking for tadpoles, or counting stars.  But these times together become special to a child, when the family has changed.  Told from the child’s point of view, young readers and listeners can immediately relate to the heart of each scene and feel loved.

“At my dad’s house and at my mom’s house, I am loved.  And when I ask them how long they’ll love me, they both reply always and forever.”

The story helps children deal with other difficult times, too.  It’s difficult for young children to accept other changes, like when a trip to the zoo is cancelled or when the child misses the other parent.  Rowland shows the child is lovingly allowed to communicate with the other parent and Weber shows a photo of ‘the other parent and the child’ on the child’s nightstand.  This is a happy story, rich in love, acceptance and understanding; an excellent role model for children, as well as parents.

Originally published in San Francisco Book Review.

Find more reviews on Amazon.