Observations, advice, comfort, and ways of thinking about one of life’s “ordinary terrible things.”
Higginbotham follows up Divorce Is the Worst (2015) with a dark-skinned child at Gramma’s wake and funeral. People say, “I know exactly how you feel,” “She’s in a better place,” and like platitudes, and the child reacts with hurt anger: “Would I be in a better place if I died?!!” Exchanges continue as the child gets home afterward, changes clothes, imagines talking with Gramma once again, asks those hard questions (“Why do we have to die?”), then follows Dad outside to stand in, and tend to, Gramma’s garden. The collage illustrations, constructed on squares of brown-paper bag with patchwork pieces of cut photos and cloth, have a somber look that brightens when corners and angles of flower and vegetable garden appear. The author’s own neatly printed background comments get a little metaphysical, but in general they are spot-on—in validating the child’s response to the aforementioned platitudes, in leaving room for individual beliefs about an afterlife, and in suggesting ways to ease the immediate sense of loss. A closing set of simple memorial activities will also be helpful, though some readers may find the references in that section (and, obliquely, earlier) to the death of a pet jarring in this context.
“We don’t get to keep everyone we love who has ever lived. But we do get to remember them”: so true. (Picture book. 6-10)