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OPINION | READ TO ME: A picture book to give to grieving youngsters

by Celia Storey | August 2, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.
"When We Fly" by Jess McGeachin (Philomel Books, Aug. 17, 2021) ages 4 to 8, 32 pages, hardcover. (Photo courtesy Philomel Books)

"When We Fly" by Jess McGeachin (Philomel Books, Aug. 17), ages 4 to 8, 32 pages, hardcover.

It's not hard to find sensitive picture books designed to comfort grieving children or to help other kids understand what death does to the living — so they will be kind. Off the top of my head, "Lifetimes" by Bryan Mellonie (Bantam, 1983) presents reality gently; "The Heart and the Bottle" by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, 2010) explains a lot; "A Stone for Sascha" by Aaron Becker (Candlewick Press, 2018) is epic; and "When Sadness Is at Your Door" by Eva Eland (Random House, 2019) calmly presents sensible strategies for mental health. But there are so many others.

With generous illustrations and moving words, such stories may be powerful tools for nurturing empathy. But "When We Fly" is one to share with grieving kids.

Lucy is good at fixing things. She finds a bird with a broken wing. Her sad-looking father tries to explain that the bird can't be repaired, but Lucy tries. She builds an airplane and gets it aloft, sharing glorious experiences with her broken bird. But not forever. McGeachin conveys the bird's death obliquely: It's not traumatic.

Meanwhile, a few photos in the background suggest that this little family has suffered an even greater loss for which the bird has become something of an avatar.

As the story ends, readers learn that Lucy goes on missing her bird. But she remembers that she has her father and he has her. We see them working cheerfully to fix up their barn. They move ahead together, hearts full of love.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books for little people.

Print Headline: OPINION | READ TO ME


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