Friday, March 11, 2011

Books for Children with Aging or Dying Grandparents

These past two years have seen two really good books for children dealing with the topic of sick and dying grandparents. There wasn't a lot around about the subject of death and dying for a number of years. Leo Buscaglia's Freddie the Leaf and Judith Viorst's The Tenth Good Thing about Barnie were all that was available for awhile. The first was about the death of a leaf and the life cycle. The second was about a pet that had died...but about grandparents....there wasn't much. There still aren't a lot of memorable ones about grandmothers.

But Susan Jones from Connecticut, just recently won the Mom's Award for her beautifully illustrated book, Until We Meet Again. Shirly Antak painted the wonderful pencil and watercolor pages. It is the story of a grandfather who knows he won't be around forever and it is about how he makes everyday memories with his grandson and tells him he will always be in his grandson's heart if he looks for him. The grandson writes all his happy memories with his grandfather down and tries to remember all the wise words he said. Later, in a hospital room, it is the grandson who tells his grandfather it is OK to let go like the balloon they once let float up to heaven together. The boy promises him he will always remember him. It is a book of comfort for both old and young, and sensitively deals with a difficult subject.
Another beautifully illustrated book for older kids, grade four to sixth, and even adults, is Granddad's Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood, and illustrated by P. J. Lynch. The oils in this book are superb. It is a story, about dying and also about finding God in nature. An aging grandfather, painted in beautiful tones of orange and brown, takes his young grandson on walks in the woods, where he teaches him that like people, all things in nature pray and sing hymns at the same time, the tall grass, the sky, the flowers and the trees. He, too, knows he will not be around forever. The boy asks if the prayers of the earth and of people are ever answered. The grandfather responds by saying that people pray not to change the world, but to change themselves. After his grandfather dies, the boy experiences intense grief, but years later when walking in the woods, he experiences nature the way his grandfather did. For the boy his prayer has been answered, as he is no longer sad for his grandfather feels near.

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