Sensitive text is paired with uneven artwork in this picture book designed to help children cope with the loss of a grandparent.
Jake, a pre-school or kindergarten-aged tyke, loves visiting his grandfather, Poppy, on the farm. Farming is no longer a tradition in his family, and according to Jake’s mother, when Poppy is “gone,” the family farm will be, too. Jake doesn’t understand where Poppy might be going though his mother assures him that Poppy won’t be going anywhere for a long time. But the conversation is prophetic—that night, Jake’s mother receives the phone call that Poppy has died. As Jake’s mother explains, Jake imagines a heart attack as a violent conflict between a heart and weapons. He struggles to understand what it means that Poppy is dead, and his mother patiently attempts to offer words that will make sense. Jake watches the contrary behavior of the adults, who say that it is only Poppy’s body in the casket, but still speak to the burial plot to say farewell. Jake’s questions are true to a child’s perspective, and his mother’s answers are thoughtful; she offers him comfort without absolutes, always prefacing her explanations about what happens after death within the context of her beliefs and being unafraid to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers. The conclusion, where Jake and his mother imagine Poppy’s combine as a constellation, is touching. Meyerson, a reverend, handles the religious aspects lightly, while presenting them from a Christian perspective. Illustrator Searcy’s choice of style appears designed to appeal to young readers, but often the faces are unevenly depicted, making the images off-putting. However, her depictions of Jake’s imagined scenes, drawn in a childlike style rather than painted like the other images, are spot on, and her abstract backgrounds are lovely. The choice of a parchment style background behind the images and the use of a papyrus font are distracting, but ultimately blend into the story and images.
Books that address grief are always in need, and Meyerson’s gentle words and child-centered perspective will provide comfort to young readers.